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“I Believe Anita Hill!” Goes Virtual in 2020

September 18, 2020

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Since 1991, thousands of women (and supportive men) from all over South Carolina have attended the now iconic “I Believe Anita Hill!” annual celebration in Columbia.

It’s fun, it’s important, it’s a great networking opportunity, and it’s the longest-running event in the nation honoring Professor Hill for her courage in shining a light, through her testimony before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991, on the long-hidden subject of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Next month – like many other events during this cursed year of 2020 – the Anita Hill celebration will be virtual. On Thursday, Oct. 15, from 6 to 7:30 p.m., you can attend the 29th annual “I Believe Anita Hill!” celebration online, from the comfort of your own home or office. The Zoom event will be professionally produced. It will include photos, short videos, uplifting stories of women who have taken action against harassment or domestic violence, and virtual break-out rooms where attendees can network and chat with friends on a variety of topics.

Professor Hill, now a professor at Brandeis University, will join the celebration virtually with pre-recorded remarks. (She has attended three celebrations in person, most recently the 25th anniversary event in 2016.)

“Because of COVID-19, we can’t be together in person, but we’re going to have a great virtual time,” says Barbara Rackes, a Columbia businesswoman and a founder of the event.

Twenty-nine years after the first Anita Hill event in 1991, it would be nice to say that sexual harassment in the workplace has been rooted out and utterly vanquished. That, however, would be false.

In the United States, 85 percent of women say they have experienced sexual harassment over the course of their careers, but very few file reports. (The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission estimates 75 percent of all workplace harassment goes unreported for fear of retaliation or the belief nothing will be done.) And since 1991, a new type of sexual harassment has sprung up and is growing: online sexual harassment, particularly of young women. Twenty-six percent of women aged 18-24 say they have been stalked online.

The Anita Hill website (https://anitahillparty.com/where-do-we-stand-in-2020/) provides a plethora of updated information on where women actually stand today. In case you think everything is hunky-dory in 2020, here are a few dispiriting facts:

  • Every 73 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. Nine of every 10 rape victims are female.
  • The coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately affected women. In 2020 in two-parent households where both parents work, mothers have reduced their work hours four to five times more than fathers during the pandemic to care for children whose schools and day care centers closed.
  • Female-dominated industries – such as leisure, hospitality, education, even parts of health care—have been especially hard hit by the pandemic. Job losses for women in 2020 have been much higher than for men.
  • American women, on average, are paid only 82 cents for every dollar paid to a man. The pay gap is worse for Black women (62 cents) and Hispanic women (54 cents).
  • South Carolina has ranked in the top 10 states for the rate women are murdered by men since at least 1998. South Carolina has been ranked four times as the No. 1 deadliest state for women, most recently in 2015, and the pandemic has made domestic violence even more prevalent.
  • Of the 170 seats in the South Carolina Legislature, just 28 are held by women, or 16.4 percent. This ranks us 45th among the 50 state legislatures.
  • Since 1993, the S.C. delegation to the U.S. Congress has been – and continues to be – exclusively male.
  • Women make up just 23.7 percent of the entire U.S. Congress.
  • Women continue to be massively underrepresented in top positions in business, law, medicine, and entertainment.

We may have come a long way, baby, but we have a long, long, way to go.

For more information on how to attend the virtual Anita Hill celebration on Oct. 15, visit the Anita Hill website at www.anitahillparty.com.

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Jan Collins is a Columbia-based journalist, editor, and author. A former Nieman Fellow at Harvard and former Congressional Fellow in Washington, D. C., she is the coauthor of Next Steps: A Practical Guide to Planning for the Best Half of Your Life (Quill Driver Books, 2009).

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