Confirmation: A Study in Sexual Harassment Communication

The Communication Department kicked off a trilogy of events this week by screening the film Confirmation. Partnering with Hope’s Women’s & Gender Studies council and the STEP program, the Communication Department is focused on processing the communicative dynamics of sexual harassment and the #MeToo movement.

The film is a provocative dramatization of the Clarence Thomas hearings by screenwriter Susannah Grant (famous for her Erin Brockovitch script). At no point does this film claim to know which testimony upholds the truth; rather, this film depicts how an entire political institution–the U.S. Senate–was brought to bear against Dr. Anita Hill. Indeed, true to its title, this film powerfully depicts a process that inexorably grinds toward confirmation.

Focusing on communicative dynamics draws our attention to a number of elements. First, the political manipulation of news media, such as the Senate’s staging of the proceedings so that Clarence Thomas’ testimony occurred during prime time and managing the 1-day news cycle. Second, the intersecting nature of sex and race as Clarence Thomas and Dr. Anita Hill faced discrimination and Thomas’ mobilizing of identity politics in his famous testimony that the hearings were a “high-tech lynching.” And third, this perspective highlights the ways in which sexual harassment happens through communication (verbal and non-verbal) and within communicative environments (the workplace, online platforms, etc.).

The Communication Department at Hope College helps students master the art and science of how humans create and share meaning, preparing them to responsibly engage in civil dialogue. We hope you’ll join us for this trilogy of events as we engage with the topic of sexual harassment. Our goal is educating students for responsible engagement, civil dialogue, and an ethic of love and humility. Join us next week for a panel discussion featuring Dr. Isolde Anderson!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *