Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Women Who Testified Against Anita Hill, Part I

There were many women who had worked with both Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill, and a large panel of them testified on behalf of Thomas. Here's the testimony of Pamela Talkin, a former EEOC chief of staff:
MS. TALKIN: As chief of staff of the EEOC for three years, I reported directly to then- Chairman Thomas. We worked very closely. We traveled together frequently, and we spent innumerable hours alone together and as many hours in the company of other women.

Judge Thomas was adamant that the women in the agency be treated with dignity and respect, and his own behavior towards women was scrupulous. There was never a hint of impropriety, and I mean a hint; never a gesture, never a look, never a word, never body language, none of the things that we women have a sixth sense about and that very few men have any sense about.

. . . Needless to say, there was nothing explicit or coarse in his language. Judge Thomas viewed such conduct, and I quote, as "repugnant," "reprehensible," "deplorable," and "despicable." He would not tolerate it.

I have been in the work force for over 30 years. During that time I have endured varying degrees of sexual harassment, sometimes serious, sometimes subtle. I view myself as very alert to this; some of my men friends say, overly sensitive. It is in that context that I tell you that I have never met a man as sensitive. He has a feminist's understanding of sexual politics. He is a man who loathes locker room talk.

This is a man who, when I had momentary lapses of language, looked discomfited and never responded in kind.

This is a man who looked at his shoes when other men were craning their necks to look at a woman.

This is a man who spent countless hours talking to me about his efforts to raise his adolescent son to be a decent, dignified, reverent man of women, and urging his son to treat his teenage female companions with dignity and respect despite his raging hormones.

This is a man who understood the inherent imbalance of power in the work place between men and women, and frowned upon even consensual romantic relationships because he did not want one woman in the agency to even mistakenly believe that her dignity had been compromised.

I have spent over 18 years enforcing laws against employment discrimination, and I can tell you that I have never worked in a work environment where any individual, man or woman, was more committed to establishing a work place free from discrimination and harassment. It is the saddest of ironies to me that the behavior that Judge Thomas found most abhorrent is the behavior that he is now being accused of.

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