Early in my professional career, I worked for the Midwest Stock Exchange. This was long before anyone had even heard the term “sexual harassment.”
The trading floor of the Exchange, that bastion of power and ego, was for men only — literally. There were no women allowed on the floor at all, except once a month when I had to breach the testosterone barrier and venture in among the boys in the “Old Boy’s Club” to end all “Old Boy’s Clubs.”
I was literally sick the night before I knew I had to enter that trading floor. My job entailed keeping the stock signage up to date. So, once a month I had to go onto the trading floor — with my trusty X-acto blade in hand — to remove the obsolete signage and replace it with the current offerings. The placement of the signage required that I either bend over or get down on my knees to accomplish my task. I think you get the picture.
Whichever way I chose to do this part of my job, I was subjected to the most crass, sexually blatant, totally offensive comments you can imagine. More than once I found myself holding up the blade as a deterrent when a hand patted my bottom.
I knew I had no recourse. There were no harassment policies, no one to complain to who didn’t think it was really funny. As soon as a new job opportunity came along, I left.
Did you see the HBO Movie “Confirmation?” While being a fictionalized version of the lurid confirmation hearings resulting from charges of sexual harassment lodged by law professor Anita Hill against then Supreme Court Nominee Clarence Thomas; it was well-researched and used actual transcript verbiage for the hearing scenes.
More than just the retelling of what occurred, the movie sheds light on the base nature and lowest depths that our political system can and did sink. For those who want to feel that all is fair and just in our country, trust me — skip this movie. Both principles in the case were abused in one way or another by the system.
But, the actual events portrayed in the movie have had some interesting results in the subsequent quarter-century.
Clarence Thomas has sat on the Supreme Court for all these years and critics say that is all he has done: sat. He did not ask one question or participate in discussions during cases before the Court for 10 years. To put this into perspective, it has been 45 years since any other Justice went for over one single term asking no questions. But, in February, he broke his silence and refused to comment on his reasons.
And, lo these many years later, we do have workplace protections. In fact, harassment suits have become commonplace. Because of the huge number of suits filed, if Anita Hill were to file civil charges today, without a witness, in all likelihood the case would be thrown out in federal court.
No one except the two people involved know the truth of what actually happened. For the rest of us, it is still he said, she said.