Copyright © 1997 Henrietta W. Hay
Anita Hill and Paula Jones
January 24, 1997
It's not easy being what my grandson calls an LOL (Liberal Old Lady).
It means having opinions you are willing to defend, but being old enough
to know that stereotypes are almost always false and that very few
things in this world are simple.
When a male acquaintance of mine way back in May, 1994 sneered, "How
come you believed Anita Hill and you doubt Paula Jones?" I had to
concede that it was a fair question. Now that Jones is once again in
the headlines the question is being debated again.
Feminist groups are criticized today because they have not spoken out on
the Paula Jones issue as they did about Anita Hill. But critics tend to
forget that eventually feminist principles win out over practical
politics, as when the women finally called for the resignation of strong
pro-choice, pro-women's rights Bob Packwood. On Jones, we're waiting for
the facts to be in.
Feminism, like the civil rights movement, like any other social
movement, embraces a lot of opinions and beliefs. But the Anita Hill
case galvanized American women, not only by what may or may not have
happened between her and Clarence Thomas, but by the actions of the
Senate Judiciary Committee. At the Thomas hearings the men on the
committee pilloried Ms. Hill so viciously that women across the country
rose up in wrath. Anita Hill emerged as a woman speaking for justice
for all women.
In addition to great political gains for women in the election of 1992,
the whole event brought a new awareness of sexual harassment in the
workplace. In the years since that hearing serious efforts are finally
being made to combat it.
As she often does, Ellen Goodman summarized the Hill situation quite
well. She wrote at that time, "In the post Hill atmosphere, it has
finally, belatedly, become possible for victims of sexual harassment to
speak up and be believed. But taking the charge seriously doesn't mean
taking every accuser seriously. Not every
woman is a victim and not every pass is a federal offense."
Paula Jones has charged then Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton with sexual
harassment which she says took place in May, 1991. She certainly has a
right to be heard, and she has been guaranteed her day in court. The
question is not whether, but when. Activist women are reserving
judgment until we hear her story. This is what we did with Anita Hill.
Patricia Ireland, national president of NOW, said in a statement last
week, "Every Paula Jones deserves to be heard, no matter how old she is
and how long ago the incident occurred, no matter what kind of accent
she has or how much money she makes and no matter who she associates
Paula Jones has made some interesting choices. She waited three years
to file suit, during which time she did not lose her job and received
standard cost of living raises. And now she has aligned herself with
Pat Robertson, right wing publicist, and Operation Rescue founder
Randall Terry. She has not requested help from NOW and has refused to
talk to Ms. Ireland, so let's not criticize the women activists.
We will never know what took place in that hotel room in Little Rock six
years ago. But careful reading of her entire legal complaint makes me