It was 7:30 on a Saturday morning when Virginia Thomas, who goes by Ginni, picked up the telephone and called Anita Hill, who had accused her husband, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, of sexual harassment. Hill did not answer, and so Ginni Thomas left a message: “Good morning Anita Hill, it’s Ginni Thomas. I just wanted to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love for you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband.”
The ominous call and priggish voicemail left by Ginni Thomas arrived not in the stormy and fitful throes of Thomas’s confirmation hearings. It was recorded on October 9, 2010, a full 19 years after the Thomas-Hill saga unfolded before a riven America.
The phone call is important to consider at this similarly vitriolic moment, when another woman, the accomplished and reticent Professor Christine Blasey Ford, has accused another Supreme Court nominee, the smug and smarmy Judge Brett Kavanaugh, of sexually assaulting her. The incident is alleged to have happened when the two were in high school in suburban Maryland; according to Ford, a witness, whose intervention ultimately permitted Ford to escape, was also present. Ford says she has notes from a therapist from 2012 that corroborate the bulk of her story. Beyond the frenzied speculation of whether or not Ford’s testimony will be able to sway the doddering men of the Republican end of the Senate Judiciary Committee is the issue of what sort of future awaits women who come forward to expose the grimy pasts of powerful men.
Judging the veracity of women who allege sexual assault has, in the United States, been erected on an impossibility—the production of a perfect victim. The media and the various PACs and posses of conservative operatives have already gotten to work attacking Ford. The White House has dismissed her as a liar; conservative commentator Tomi Lahren implied that she was an opportunist; and a Wall Street Journal editorial not only impugns her but suggests that going to therapy can result in invented memories. The Senatorial cavalry of male entitlement is also getting into gear, chief among them Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who in his scowling questioning of Hill implied that she was working with “slick lawyers” and Democratic operatives to ensure that Thomas did not get on the Court.
The hearing will likely come on Monday, and an out-resourced Ford will have the chance to bravely confront the man who allegedly assaulted her and tell her story while the GOP’s all-male section of the Senate Judiciary Committee waits to shred her to bits—it’s no wonder she’s disinclined to testify. Hatch has already sounded the herald, declaring Ford was “mistaken” in her recollection of who was at the party in question. His long-time pals Senator Chuck Grassley and Senator Mitch McConnell, who assisted Hatch in the slicing and dicing of Hill, will likely also play leading roles—all part of the pack of aged avengers of Kavanaugh.