20 Years after the Clarence Thomas Hearings: How far have we really come? -- Ginny Waller

As a member of the University of South Carolina Women and Gender Studies Partnership Council, Southeastern Institute for Women in Politics, and South Carolina Women Lawyer’s Association, I attended the numerous events over the past month in celebration of the great social changes resulting from and since the Clarence Thomas hearings 20 years ago. Yes, I watched the hearings, but at the wise old age of 14, I honestly wasn’t really concerned. After all, it didn’t impact my life.  I recognize now the truly heroic acts by Professor Hill in telling the truth and refusing to bow to the all male Senate Judiciary. I know now that the hearings themselves reflected an overarching judgment of women and our place in society. So I’ve been very excited for these upcoming events to celebrate courage, women mentors, the liberation of women, and on and on. Yet, I found myself time and time again at these events wondering how far we have actually come -- as one of our clients unjustly sits in jail for false reporting . . . as I am treated differently as a female lawyer and asked to “fetch the coffee” . . . as I watch our clients fighting the justice system created to protect them . . . and as I continue to hear about sexual harassment time and again. So when Anita Hill described her experiences in 1991 during the hearings and noted those bygone days, I couldn’t stop thinking “How far have we really come?”  Unfortunately, I believe that Professor Hill would be treated now the exact same way as she was then.  The only difference is that there would be the representation of two women in the Senate Judiciary and perhaps a few male supporters from the Committee.  She wouldn’t have been as isolated, and maybe THAT has to be enough for now.