Preston Siegler, 18, carried a sign Thursday evening that read, “Women belong in the (H)ouse … and the Senate.”
“It’s true,” Siegler said at Columbia’s 25th annual “I Believe Anita Hill Party.”
For 25 years, a Columbia group has gathered annually to mark the testimony of Anita Hill before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991 about alleged sexual harassment by her former supervisor, Clarence Thomas, then a nominee for the Supreme Court.
This year, they heard from Hill herself and also considered the possibility of the first woman president of the United States.
Siegler, a freshman at Columbia College, said her male high school classmates in Aiken told her there was no way a woman would lead the country.
But, with Hillary Clinton as the Democratic candidate for president, that possibility is “really inspiring,” Siegler said.
Hill addressed the packed gathering at 701 Whaley on Thursday, telling the mostly female crowd, “I don’t want you to forget (how difficult) it is for people to come forward even today.
“All of us who have been vulnerable and have been abused by a system that did not value us for the human beings we are,” Hill said, citing women who are sexually harassed or assaulted, men who stand up for what is right in the workplace, children who have been abused and LGBT people. “It is still difficult to come forward.”
Twenty-five years ago, Hill was not believed, causing Siegler to marvel Thursday night.
“It makes no sense to me” that Thomas could go on to be confirmed to the country’s highest court, the Columbia College student said.
But Hill’s decision to come forward and testify demonstrated, Siegler said, that “no matter what challenges I face, I’ll still be able to go and do what is right.”
Tootsie Holland, 84, has been attending the Anita Hill event since it was started.
Before Hill, women often kept quiet about sexual harassment, Holland said.
“She has, and we have, brought attention to the fact that sexual harassment takes place in almost all businesses,” Holland said.
Thursday night, Holland wore a button supporting Clinton for president.
It was from 2008, when Clinton lost her bid for the Democratic nomination. Holland had marked out the last two digits and written in 16.
“I did not think I would live long enough to see it.”