Twenty-five years on, writer and producer Susannah Grant says
few women under the age of 30 have ever heard of Hill, which is
one of the reasons she felt compelled to revisit the story for
the HBO film "Confirmation," which premieres on Sunday.
"This has not been written into our cultural history in a way
that anyone younger than 38 or so is aware of. I think it
important that people know because everybody who takes a job now
is told clearly of the rights and boundaries of responsible
"Very rarely do civil rights get granted. They usually have to
be demanded and fought for," Grant said.
"Confirmation" - starring "Scandal" star Kerry Washington as law
professor Hill and Wendell Pierce as Thomas, who denied the
allegations and is now a Supreme Court justice - depicts Hill as
a voice that changed history.
Thomas declined to talk with the filmmakers and declined to
comment on the film.
"Her voice completely altered how we, as a nation, talk about
sexual harassment in the workplace. ... It took (sexual
harassment) from something of an insiders' legal conversation to
a large national conversation," Grant said.
Hill emerged from the 1991 hearings with her reputation in
tatters. Yet the following year, the number of women in the U.S.
Senate shot up from two to six and sexual harassment claims
filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission doubled.
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Still, much remains to be done, activists say, in an era when 25
percent of women say they have experienced sexual harassment at
work, yet 70 percent never report it, according to a 2011 ABC
News/Washington Post survey.
Terry O'Neill, president of the National Organization for Women,
hopes the HBO film will empower young women.
"Millennial women are pushing back against rape culture on college
campuses and are now moving into the workplace. I hope it's going to
remind them why they can fight and win in a culture that is sexist
and discriminatory," O'Neill said.
Grant has only modest hopes of "Confirmation" spurring the kind of
change triggered by Hill, who is now a professor at Brandeis
University and has taken part in promotional events for the film.
Instead, she would be happy "if someone comes away from it and
thinks, 'Oh, you can actually just speak up. It will be
uncomfortable but that's an option.'"
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant)
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