Sunday, October 24, 2010

Clarence and Virginia Thomas, taking their country back to a time when women didn't matter

By R.K. Barry 

A number of pundits were wondering what Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas' wife Virginia was up to when she left a message on Anita Hill's answering machine suggesting that Hill might want to take the opportunity to apologize for events that took place nineteen years ago during Justice Thomas' confirmation hearings.

You may recall that Hill testified that Thomas had sexually harassed her in the early 1980s when she was in his employ at the U.S. Department of Education and later at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 

Her testimony included the following:

He spoke about acts that he had seen in pornographic films involving such matters as women having sex with animals and films showing group sex or rape scenes. On several occasions, Thomas told me graphically of his own sexual prowess. Thomas was drinking a Coke in his office, he got up from the table at which we were working, went over to his desk to get the Coke, looked at the can and asked, "Who has put pubic hair on my Coke?"

Despite the fact that several co-workers testified that she was upset about his harassing behaviour at the time and that she agreed to take a polygraph test during the confirmation hearings, and Thomas refused, this ultimately turned into a "he said, she said" kind of thing, though it did serve to make his confirmation vote a lot closer than it otherwise likely would have been.

I have to say that I tend to put a lot of stock in her credibility, knowing as I do what tends to happen to any woman who challenges male sexual privilege. It strikes me that she agreed to testify despite the risks because she deeply resented what he had put her through and saw an opportunity to take back some control and went for it. Good for her.

Men who sexually harass women in the workplace, especially those in a position of authority, always say that they are just having some good-natured fun. But what they are doing is indicating that they have power over women and that in some sort of self-delusional world could have a lot more power if they chose to go there. It's demeaning and I suspect infuriating to women who have to suffer it.

Yeah, Clarence Thomas is a jerk, so I had to love a recent headline to a story discussing statements made by a former lover in a Washington Post interview. The headline read:

Lillian McEwen, Clarence Thomas' Ex-Girlfriend, Talks About His Porn, Breast Preferences, Hill Controversy

The irony that Virginia Thomas phone call to Hill only served to bring out new information confirming her husband's bad behaviour is indeed rich. 

Here are a few quotes from the Post story: 

"He was always actively watching the women he worked with to see if they could be potential partners," McEwen told the Post, adding that he was particularly "partial to women with large breasts" and even would ask woman about their bra size.

"He was obsessed with porn," McEwen also said of Thomas, a claim that is particularly relevant to Hill's allegations that the then-chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had repeatedly relayed scenes from pornographic movies to her. "He would talk about what he had seen in magazines and films, if there was something worth noting," McEwen continued.

There is more in the story, and it's unsettling, but you can check that out for yourself. 

Initially, I was annoyed with Virginia Thomas for making that call to Hill. Then I realized that she is probably a victim too, living with this creep and likely in the kind of state of denial that makes her do really dumb things. 

But then I thought about the fact that Virginia Thomas is a Tea Party organizer, and in fact a leader in the movement with an affiliation to a group called Liberty Central.

The Tea Party is about many things, but it is mostly about harkening back to an imagined past when things like sexual harassment in the work place was not frowned upon. The world to which they would like us all to return is, among other things, a man's world where women know their place and don't or can't complain about inappropriate behaviour.

For conservatives like the Thomases, the question is not whether or not Justice Thomas did those awful things -- of course he did. The question is whether or not anyone should care and why Hill was allowed to make such a big deal out of it.

As to why Virginia Thomas was looking for an apology from Hill at this point, so long after the initial events, it is clear that Tea Party types are feeling their oats and feeling that now is a good time to right historical wrongs -- that now is their moment to "take their country back” to a time when women like Anita Hill would not have been allowed to speak out, to a time when Hill would have better understood her place.

Labels: , , , ,

Bookmark and Share


Post a Comment

<< Home