John Oliver interviews Prof. Anita Hill

August 24, 2018

Anita Hill (HS/WGSS) appeared on “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”  on July 29 to discuss sexual harassment in the workplace. Oliver interviewed Hill, discussing her 1991 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee—which created a national conversation on workplace sexual harassment—and its relevance to the current “#metoo” movement.

Hill is a professor of social policy, law and women’s, gender and sexuality studies at Brandeis’ Heller School for Social Policy and Management. In 1991, Hill accused U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, testifying for eight hours before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Thomas was eventually approved to sit on the Supreme Court, where he remains today, and Hill’s testimony was ignored.

During the interview with Hill—which aired only two days after CBS CEO Les Moonves was accused of inappropriate conduct in the workplace, according to Time magazine—Oliver asked Hill what has changed in the 27 years since Hill’s 1991 testimony. Hill responded, “There’s been a tremendous amount of change.”

“There’s been a change in public attitude and there’s been a change in the amount of information that we have about sexual harassment. And there’s certainly more awareness after the ‘me too’ movement,” she said. “Even a few years ago, people were ambivalent about what the consequences should be if someone is behaving incredibly badly and abusing people they work with.”

Hill also identified what changes should be implemented to prevent workplace sexual harassment, such as changing laws, implementing bystander training and publicizing businesses’ policies on workplace sexual harassment.

“One of the things we need to do to change the culture and actually convince people that we’re serious about it is to publicize the policies and to inform people this is what happens if you file a complaint…I also think that there [are] some management things that we can do. We, for example, can do bystander training,” she said.

Oliver mentioned his own experience with not feeling “empowered to speak” when he witnessed inappropriate behavior, especially when he was younger and had less power in the workplace. Hill encouraged him to think about how he would do things differently today, not only speaking out, but talking to the victim in those situations.

Hill concluded by saying that she was hopeful for the future as more women who might not have come forward 27 years ago have voiced their complaints. And though the change may be “glacially slow,” as she put it, “if we do nothing, the change is not going to come.”

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