I give Kathleen Parker credit, in the unfortunately revived debate over Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill, for a new take on the events of almost 20 years ago. Parker believes Hill but thinks she was an uptight bluenose and should just have laughed off Thomas’ sexual come-ons. So Hill, a young lawyer at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (for goodness sake!), should have just said, “Oh, Long Dong, stop being so silly” when her boss repeatedly asked her out, discussed his porn viewing habits with her, and engaged in bizarre soliloquies on pubic hair. Parker believes that the pubic events Hill described only became public because Thomas had the audacity to be a black conservative. I’m trying to imagine, however, how the nomination to the court of a liberal head of the EEOC who was accused of the same actions would go over today. Unless there was overwhelming evidence that his accuser was truly bonkers, such allegations–and Hill’s observations were backed up by other women–would get someone’s nomination withdrawn instantly.
Parker doesn’t mention Bill Clinton, but she should have, because indeed there was a feminist double standard at work in the response to his behavior on the job. My friend, the late Marjorie Williams, brilliantly dissected this at the time–read her essay in The Woman at the Washington Zoo . But I’m trying to imagine the universe Parker inhabits in which female employees are responsible for reining in the relentless, sexually charged behavior of their bosses. I do agree with one thing she says, however, and that’s that Thomas’ wife, Ginni, must rue the fact that her bizarre phone call to Hill requesting an apology put her husband’s sordid mess back on the front pages.