Anita Hill discusses her newest book, “Believing: Our Thirty-Year Journey to End Gender Violence”

November 12, 2021

On Nov. 10, the Heller School hosted a virtual event featuring University Professor Anita Hill in conversation about her recently-published book, “Believing: Our Thirty-Year Journey to End Gender Violence.” The conversation was facilitated by ChaeRan Freeze, the Frances and Max Elkon Chair in Modern Jewish History and chair of the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Department. Over 200 members of the Brandeis and Heller School community were in attendance.

Their wide-ranging conversation began with a note on the book’s title, “Believing.” Hill says, “What I realized when writing this book is that to get what I want—the end of gender-based violence—you really have to believe in the cause. It’s not just about believing women or anyone who comes forward, it’s about believing that you have a right to be heard.”

Book Cover of Anita Hill's Believing: Our Thirty-Year Journey to End Gender Violence

Hill's book covers the sweeping structural and cultural mechanisms that perpetuate and exacerbate gender-based violence in all its forms: from workplace discrimination and harassment, to sexual assault and rape, to intimate partner violence. Freeze asked Hill to reflect on her own journey and her decision to become a leading public voice on these issues, despite her initial desire to remain a private figure.

“I had to reconcile my sense of who I was and how I best function with this huge need that I saw,” says Hill, who received a deluge of letters and phone calls after her landmark 1991 Senate testimony during Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearing. 

Freeze and Hill also discussed how racism and other systems of oppression often further complicate the already-fraught process of reporting or seeking justice for gender violence. “I don’t think we have quite understood how race and sexual identity and gender identity and bias against individuals can overlap and contribute both to the experience of the behavior and then detract from the response when people come forward,” says Hill. 

Despite the breadth and pervasiveness of gender-based violence, Hill remains deeply optimistic. Although she continues to receive calls and letters from victims of gender violence, she's also begun to hear from people who have benefited from modest improvements society has made in the last 30 years. Her students also give her hope, she says, citing increased interest from both young people and researchers who are dedicated to learning more about issues of oppression and gender violence.

Watch the captioned video of Hill and Freeze’s full conversation.