Peggy Phelan looks at the 1991 United States Senate Judiciary Committee hearings in which Clarence Thomas, who was seeking confirmation as a Supreme Court Justice, was accused by Anita Hill of sexual harassment. Phelan focuses particularly on how the legal system and psychoanalysis attempt to redress sexual injury, and could not be used to discover the underlying ‘truth’. Neither a legal trial nor public psychotherapy, the hearings bore the hallmarks of both. They also provided a performance of two competing narratives, Hill’s word against Thomas’s, which then functioned as entertainment for the television audience. Asymmetrical social relationships create an atmosphere that fosters traumas, as the Hill-Thomas hearings demonstrate.
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