SAM SANDERS, HOST:
Hey y'all. I'm Sam Sanders. IT'S BEEN A MINUTE. Every Tuesday we have an in-depth conversation with one person or on one topic. This week we are talking about the politics of the #MeToo movement from the time of Anita Hill to now. Anita Hill was a young lawyer who, back in 1991, went public with sexual harassment allegations against Clarence Thomas. Yes, that Clarence Thomas, current Supreme Court justice. Back in '91, he was still waiting to be confirmed for that seat.
NPR's very own Supreme Court correspondent Nina Totenberg broke this story, and she was the person that Ms. Hill trusted her story to. So I wanted to talk with Nina about that, this kind of #MeToo moment before we actually had a name for it. And I also wanted to bring another person into this conversation, PBS White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor. Yamiche and I got to know each other covering the election in 2016, and she's been covering the #MeToo movement and how it's playing out on Capitol Hill now.
So the three of us get into a lot in this chat - what is different about #MeToo in politics and how these issues play out in D.C. compared to other industries and places. We also get into some generational differences between women and how they view sexual harassment. And, a warning for parents. If you normally listen to this podcast with kids, just a heads up. This entire conversation deals with sex and sexual assault. So know that going in.
All right, here we go - me talking with Nina Totenberg, who was here with me at NPR, and Yamiche Alcindor, who joined us from WETA's studios in Virginia.
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SANDERS: Hey, Yamiche.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Hey.
NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: Hi, Yamiche.
ALCINDOR: Hi. How are you?
TOTENBERG: I'm fine.
ALCINDOR: I'm so excited to talk to you because you're, like, someone who broke this really big story. And you're, like, a legend. So I'm trying not to fangirl.
TOTENBERG: Don't - it's OK.
ALCINDOR: But, just so you know.
TOTENBERG: You can be all the fangirl you want.
ALCINDOR: I am absolutely fangirling right now.
TOTENBERG: That's excellent.
SANDERS: I hope we're rolling on this.
TOTENBERG: Those old - we old broads like fangirls.
SANDERS: So we are having a conversation about the story that has been here and it's not going away, and I think that's my first question to you both. When the Weinstein story happened, which was months ago at this point, I said to myself, this is big, it's going to be a big thing for a while. But I expected the country to move away from this topic a month or two after that. It's been months. It seems like it's not going away. Have you been surprised by the longevity of the #MeToo movement so far?
TOTENBERG: This is Nina. I have not been surprised by the longevity.
TOTENBERG: I have been surprised by the generational differences...
TOTENBERG: ...And by the intensity of the way young women feel and their inability - or many, many young women have an - seem to have an inability or an unwillingness to draw any lines between Harvey Weinstein's kind of conduct, and just generally boorish kind of conduct and just guys making a pass and failing kind of conduct.
ALCINDOR: I haven't been surprised by the endurance in that I think gender, much like race is something that is so personal and so touching to so many different communities that when you start to surface, you realize that everyone, almost, has a story. So I think there's this idea that for a very, very long time, we've been talking about race in this country. I'm one of those reporters who thinks that we should continue to always talk about race because it is something that is completely part of the fabric of America. So I think some people maybe for the first time are finding out that the way that women are treated sometimes unfairly is also part of an American culture or capitalist society, whatever you want to call it. So there's this idea that most women that I've talked to in the months that this has broken have a story that, if it's not something that is overtly assault, it's something that said, wow, I had to get over this and I had to normalize this behavior in order to do my job.
SANDERS: Is it a thing, Nina, where you look back and say, well, I was like that when I was their age? Or is it something different?
TOTENBERG: No. When I was their age, I was really grateful to have a job, period,...
TOTENBERG: ...In journalism.
TOTENBERG: And I got catcalled in the lobby of the House of Representatives where members would sit there and just dissect me as I walked - verbally as I walked down the...
SANDERS: What's the worst thing they said to you?
TOTENBERG: I don't even remember. You know? And, you know, they would just say, hey, you want to come here? Sit on my lap, honey? You know, that kind of thing.
TOTENBERG: Yeah. It was not subtle.
TOTENBERG: And I did interviews with men who would just stare at my chest and not my face. And I had a boss who was all over me like a rug every time he asked for a ride home.
SANDERS: He didn't have his own car?
TOTENBERG: He would somehow arrange not to. And it never occurred to me in those days that I could even tell anybody...
TOTENBERG: ...Any of this or complain about it.
TOTENBERG: So you know, (laughter) as a young woman, I learned to suck it up.
SANDERS: OK. Just got to clarify. This boss that was creepy in your car, please tell me he didn't work at NPR.
TOTENBERG: No, it was not at NPR.
SANDERS: OK. All right.
TOTENBERG: No. This was long before that.
TOTENBERG: And I - there was no law of sexual harassment at the time.
TOTENBERG: So the idea - nobody had an HR department that you could even complain to.
TOTENBERG: It just didn't exist. So I am from what I call the suck-it-up generation. And you have to assume that we have a different view. But, having said that, I spent decades being an advocate for young women...
TOTENBERG: ...And sometimes counseling them that you have to pick your battles. And if somebody gave you a compliment, said you looked nice, that was not worth having a big fight about. Other things were - whether or not you got the job, whether you had to do anything to get the job...
TOTENBERG: ...Whether anybody touched you to - you know, all of that. So I've thought this through, and I have some pretty clear lines, but they are not, probably, the same lines that Yamiche has.
SANDERS: Yeah. You know, hearing Nina talk about this divide, perhaps, between generations of women, have you seen that too, as a young woman covering this movement, too?
ALCINDOR: I don't - I mean, I don't think that I can talk that much about whether or not there's a divide there because I've mainly been talking to women who have actually, I think, had stories that most people, including my editors or producers, thought was problematic. So there's this idea that of course there's a gray area. Do you - does one person being raped and another person being catcalled repeatedly, is that the same thing? I think most women I talk to understand that that's completely different things. The issue, though, is that with millennial women that I've talked to they say that they are less likely to want to even blow past something.
So they're not going to just let a guy who is continuing to harass them at work, what might have been called, you know, something before - just hitting on them and being persistent - they're not going to let that behavior fly. But most women I've talked to, even as they're telling me, like, you know, I really didn't like that my supervisor sent me a whole bunch of pictures and continued to send me these pictures - I talked to a young woman like that - she recognized that that was different than someone who got fired maybe because of a gender issue or someone who got assaulted physically. I think women inherently understand the difference.
SANDERS: Yeah. One of the interesting things that I want to talk to you both about is how much there was a #MeToo before there was a #MeToo. And there are a lot of different points in our history where these issues have come to the forefront, but I want to lock in on one. And this is a story, Nina, that you broke.
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LIANE HANSEN, BYLINE: This is Weekend Edition. I'm Liane Hansen. A woman who served as personal assistant to Clarence Thomas for over two years has accused him of sexually harassing her.
SANDERS: The Anita Hill story. This was involving the confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas, who is now on the Supreme Court.
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HANSEN: National Public Radio has learned that the woman brought her accusation to the Senate Judiciary Committee last month.
TOTENBERG: This is one of those stories that combined race, racial stereotypes and sex.
SANDERS: And power.
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HANSEN: NPR's Nina Totenberg reports.
TOTENBERG: And power all into one.
SANDERS: And politics.
TOTENBERG: And politics all into one.
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TOTENBERG: According to Hill's affidavit, Thomas, after a brief work discussion, would, quote, "turn conversation to discussions about his sexual interests." His conversations, she said, were vivid. He spoke about acts he had seen in pornographic films involving such things as women having sex with animals, and films involving group sex or rape scenes. Hill said she repeatedly told Thomas she did not want to discuss those kinds of things, but sensed that her apparent disgust only urged him on.
Justice Thomas was the second African-American appointed to the Supreme Court, nominated by the first President Bush, and he denied it in his testimony, calling it a high-tech lynching.
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CLARENCE THOMAS: This is a circus. It's a national disgrace. It is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves. And it is a message that unless you kowtow to an old order, you will be lynched, destroyed, caricatured by a committee of the U.S. - U.S. Senate, rather than hung from a tree.
SANDERS: And just - I mean, like, some of the things that she described are so out there, like pubic hair on a soda can. Just really strange stuff.
TOTENBERG: Yeah. According to her, he said at one point, did you put this pubic hair on my Coke? Or something like that, and that he'd talk to her in very explicit ways.
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ANITA HILL: He spoke about acts that he had seen in pornographic films involving such matters as women having sex with animals, and films showing group sex or rape scenes. He talked about pornographic materials depicting individuals with large penises or large breasts involved in various sex acts. On several occasions, Thomas told me graphically of his own sexual prowess.
SANDERS: And so I mean, you know, like, there is, I think, a direct line between that and where we are now. What is the biggest difference you see, perhaps, in the way that those kind of issues were handled then and the way they're handled now? And, I mean, perhaps the biggest question is do you think that Clarence Thomas, had those stories come out today, been able to be confirmed to the Supreme Court?
TOTENBERG: You know, this is a good question. I don't know. Certainly the hearing would have been more thorough. There were other women who had similar stories that the committee didn't call. Senator Biden, former Vice President Biden was chairman of the committee then and he decided not to call them and has apologized to Anita Hill now for not calling them and for not being more expansive in the investigation. But I don't know. He was a very persuasive witness, and she was a very persuasive witness.
TOTENBERG: If you didn't have actual information, and it was as we said back then a he said, she said...
TOTENBERG: ...It was very hard to tell. You either found her credible and simply found him not credible, or you said - but she was treated as, by Republicans on the committee, as a delusional person.
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ARLEN SPECTER: Professor Hill, you said that you took it to mean that Judge Thomas wanted to have sex with you but, in fact, he never did ask you to have sex. Correct?
HILL: No, he did not ask me to have sex. He did continually pressure me to go out with him continually.
SPECTER: You are not now drawing a conclusion that Judge Thomas sexually harassed you?
HILL: Yes, I am drawing that conclusion. That is my...
SPECTER: Well, then I don't understand.
HILL: Pardon me?
SPECTER: Then I don't understand.
Page three. It was my opinion at the time and is now my opinion that Ms. Hill's fantasies about sexual interest in her were an indication of the fact that she was having a problem being rejected by men she was attracted to.
TOTENBERG: For any woman watching the hearings, it was the way rape victims used to be treated 50 years ago, where - what did you do to encourage this?
TOTENBERG: That kind of thing.
SANDERS: One of the things that you have to talk about when you talk about the Anita Hill story is race and how this black woman, with these allegations against this black man, was treated by these very white bodies. I'm talking about the Senate and these committees. I just - compare it to now, Yamiche and Nina. Like, the face of that story was a black woman. The face of #MeToo has predominantly been white women. Yamiche, when you hear these stories from folks that come to you and talk about their stories, are you hearing from more white women? Like...
ALCINDOR: I think there's two things. The one thing is that the #MeToo movement that I am most familiar with as a political reporter was the congressional aspect.
ALCINDOR: The Congress is not a place that employs very diverse people. So just by virtue of who works there, that means that I was, essentially, interviewing way more white women than any other race. So there's that aspect, but I think that when we talk about a conversation of whether or not black women are treated differently than white women, you really, I think, have to go all the way back to the campaign in the "Access Hollywood" tape. I wrote a story for The New York Times, where I was working before, that said one of the main reasons why the "Access Hollywood" tape was such a big deal was because it was perceived to be Donald Trump talking about white women, and white women historically had had a different value. Because there's this idea that he had been talking about Mexicans, he had been talking about brown people, and those people were women of color. But when senators and congresspeople started saying, well, I can see my daughter, and I have a daughter and a wife, I cannot - I can no longer support this man, the experts I talked to essentially said that a lot of these lawmakers didn't see themselves in the Mexican women or the Muslim women that President Trump was attacking before.
So when we go back to the #MeToo movement, I think that in some ways the value that white women have historically had in American society is obviously playing into that. I mean, obviously impacting that. And part of this, also, is the idea that black women - at least some of the ones that I've talked to - said that they also feel bad when it comes to speaking out against black men because there's this idea that black men have already gone through so much. I mean, think of in Clarence Thomas's case. You know, he's had to go through all these things just to get to this huge accomplishment of being nominated to the Supreme Court, and here goes this black woman essentially having a case against him and trying to take him down. And I think, even to this - to now, there are a lot of black women who feel as though they don't want to be seen as someone who is going against their race.
SANDERS: All right. Time for a quick break. We'll be right back with more of our #MeToo conversation, then and now.
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SANDERS: With politics, it seems, there have been a few big names that have toppled - Al Franken, John Conyers - but a lot of other men that haven't been forced to leave their jobs. And when I compare D.C. to Hollywood and the reckoning they're having there, the fall rate in politics seems a lot smaller. Is that a fair assessment, and if so, why?
TOTENBERG: I don't think I know because they're not as - well, if we look at the - if you include in Washington the media world, some rather large media figures have fallen, some more famous than others...
TOTENBERG: ...Including two here at NPR who were not particularly well-known. So you know, the great world outside, probably, it's not a big deal to them.
TOTENBERG: And also, what they did wasn't as bad as what the big media stars did (laughter).
TOTENBERG: Let's face it.
SANDERS: They were no Weinsteins.
TOTENBERG: There were no Weinsteins. I think if you include the larger political media world, it might not be quite as different as you think.
SANDERS: Yeah. But there are, like, Hill staffers we just haven't heard of.
TOTENBERG: Yeah. There are Hill staffers you haven't heard of.
SANDERS: There are aides, and chiefs of staffs and state offices...
TOTENBERG: And reporters...
TOTENBERG: ...And editors, and all kinds of people most people have not heard of.
TOTENBERG: We know them, but most people haven't.
SANDERS: So Yamiche, I mean, part of the coverage that you have done recently talked about how hard it is for women working on Capitol Hill to even report and go through an HR process on these claims. Might that be part of why it seems, at least, fewer men are falling, or is it something else? I don't know.
ALCINDOR: I can't tell, much like Nina, whether or not there's a fall rate difference in politics than other industries. I think that definitely the fact that Congress doesn't have a real HR specialist that's going out there saying, look, you can come to me to talk about this, I also think that the idea that many, many people did not know that the office that handles these cases actually even exists. There are so many people that I talked to who were shocked to even find out about the office...
ALCINDOR: ...That handled them. So there's this...
ALCINDOR: ...Idea that people have no idea, including, I would say, lawmakers. There are lawmakers who did not know that the office existed.
ALCINDOR: So you think in that case, not only no one in the office can know because the person who heads the office doesn't now. So that's one thing. The other thing I think about is we are talking a lot about politics because - or, at least I'm talking a lot about politics because that's the part of the movement that I covered. But what about restaurants, and hotels and all these other places where women are probably still having to work with those bosses? The fall rates there, if there are any, are probably the lowest in the country because probably the less money you make, I would venture to say, the harder it is for you to speak up because you'd have a whole family or whole livelihood on the line. That might be different than other people. Even though obviously the women on the Hill are also dealing with their livelihoods. They get blacklisted, or, it's hard to find a job after you're appointed as someone who will speak up in an office.
SANDERS: And, you know, it's interesting to me now because I have started to see the think pieces about this very problem, the fact that women that are the most on the margins suffer from this probably more and get less coverage.
SANDERS: So now that we all are aware of that, what makes it better? I don't know what it is. And I'm not asking either of you to, like, fix this thing. But I wonder, like, what would make it better?
TOTENBERG: I mean, I think the only way you change a culture is when relatively powerless people go to more powerful people who can help them. And that is not always the HR department.
TOTENBERG: It may be. That's the only thing you can hope for, is that there are places and individuals, other women that women can go to.
SANDERS: Yeah. Yamiche, I am thinking about how Washington will respond to this, to the #MeToo movement writ large, and I know that there's some movement to tighten up and streamline the processes of reporting harassment on the Hill itself. But have you heard or seen anywhere of any movement from senators or Congresspersons to do some kind of #MeToo bill or a law that really touches the whole country?
ALCINDOR: When I think about this conversation - I guess it's because I'm a black woman - it goes back to race. Like when I think about that question about is there a #MeToo bill that's going to fix our problems because there's not a racism bill that's going to fix all our problems. I've seen kind of piecemeal bills about basically signing agreements, and whether or not those agreements should be confidential, how businesses that get money from the federal government, how those those companies essentially will deal with harassment claims. But at least in the conversations I've had with aides, there isn't like a national this is how the country's going to deal with sexual harassment. Mainly it's because all of these industries are different, and people still have their private HRs.
So even in Congress, when they have - as they operate in their kind of little fiefdoms, where senator such and such is completely different than another senator's office. You also have to think how do you deal with people who are maybe out all day, and they're construction workers, versus someone who maybe works in an office. In some ways, I think there might be maybe a push to have mandatory training. But even with that, what does that mandatory training looks like - look like?
There are some people that are like, OK, there should definitely be a video. Other people want it to be a full day. I think it's going to be hard for Congress to say here's the blanketed way that harassment is going to work out for people because then you run the risk of leaving out loopholes. And that's essentially what Congress is good at. It's good at sometimes passing bills that might be intended to do one thing and then having to go back and tweak it and tweak it and tweak it because they realize that when it's actually put into effect that it's different.
SANDERS: Yeah. OK, for this chat, we asked our listeners to send us questions. And we got a few, and I want to give you both this question. And it's about nuance in the #MeToo movement.
MEGAN: Hi, my name is Megan (ph). I live in Oregon. And I'm curious if your guests think the momentum of the #MeToo movement might fizzle out due to the extremism of some voices in the movement. I don't have a better word to use for it. But it seems like we're lacking a lot of nuance in the difference between malicious sexual assault and abuse and clumsy sexual or romantic passes that are just ill-informed and poorly timed. And the need for nuance, I feel like, is really important for this movement to be taken seriously.
TOTENBERG: There are two things I want to say here. First, in the employment context, we have to think about for what malfeasance will men - and we're largely talking about men - be executed. Is it capital punishment? Like do they get fired from their jobs, and they're never going to work again? And that's true for some of them.
SANDERS: And there's a story to be written three years from now when these men do start to work again because...
TOTENBERG: And then secondly...
SANDERS: ...At some point they work.
TOTENBERG: Well, then the second - well, sometimes they can't.
SANDERS: Yeah, although I think that will change over time.
TOTENBERG: And secondly we have to develop some sort of a proportional response. That's number one. And number two, if you do your job, is there a way back to redemption ever?
SANDERS: What does it look like? What does it sound like?
TOTENBERG: And maybe, for Harvey Weinstein - probably not. But, you know, there are lesser offenses. And third, we have the daily not-employment context, which is what do you do when you're peers, and you're dating?
ALCINDOR: I think, for me, there's this idea that like someone might call me the N-word. Someone might just say that my hair is wacky, which has happened to me. And someone might just want to touch me. I think, yeah, there's a scale for all those things. But I think all of those things are inappropriate. And as a result my different - my response is going to be different. But that person needs to understand that they're a problem - that they're having problematic behavior at work and need to be told to stop doing those things.
So I think whether or not you get redemption for calling someone the N-word versus touching my hair, I think that we're in a society where you want to think that people can be - can get redemption. But it's also very hard if the person is someone who is very problematic and has been doing it for years. And they've been getting away with it, like Harvey Weinstein who essentially was hurting dozens of women and stopping careers and taking away their livelihoods.
SANDERS: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
TOTENBERG: But there are other ways to deal with this. You can suspend somebody...
TOTENBERG: ...For a month without pay and then bring them back - all kinds of things you can do. But I want to turn the conversation just a bit because I think this is - when we talk about the culture...
TOTENBERG: ....We're also talking about the dating culture...
SANDERS: And the gray areas there.
TOTENBERG: ...And all of the gray areas there...
TOTENBERG: ...That are carried over from workplace, outside of the workplace, whatever.
SANDERS: Yeah. So backstory, I gave the two of you some homework - some advanced reading in light of today's conversation. There has been much coverage about an article in Babe.
SANDERS: Yeah, a 3,000 word expose - a woman's story told by a reporter, a woman who had gone on a date with Aziz Ansari that - I think all will agree - went badly. But there are questions about how bad it really was. And on the one hand, you could call it something tantamount to sexual assault. On the other hand, you could just say it was a date gone wrong. And there was the original article and this really, really interesting range of response from women. A lot of younger women seemed to side with this woman that said Aziz went too far and didn't read her verbal and nonverbal cues. Some older women wrote these scathing op-eds saying this is a hit job, and it was this woman's responsibility to say no and leave his house. Several months into #MeToo, we have this story that underscores how murky this all is. It hasn't gotten clearer in the last few months. It's gotten murkier. What do we make of that?
ALCINDOR: I think that - I mean, I am in some ways because I'm a reporter and not an opinion columnist. In some ways, I shy away from saying this is how I would have done this piece. Or here's all the things that are wrong with this piece. And go to this idea of a gray area. I think that what we can say definitively is that there are going to be way more problematic things that are - in terms of the numbers of things that are going to come out, we're going to have cases that are going to make people feel completely uncomfortable. I think of Al Franken. There are people who think he should have completely been thrown out of the door. And there are people who think the Democrats shot themselves in the foot by essentially ousting him from the party. So there's going to always be a gray area because that's the culture that we live in.
I will say that when I was reading this piece, there's this idea that women - and maybe that's how I've been in my own life. I've been very verbal and very blunt. A man will know if he like - if I like him or not. And will know if I want him to touch me or not touch me. I am not someone who is going to say no, with my eyes. That's something that needs to be maybe talked about more. Is there - are we in a culture where women feel paralyzed - where some women are intimidated by a celebrity or intimidated by just a man's power if they are your supervisor? I'm not a woman who is intimidated by any of that. But I think that there's - I'm not unsympathetic to women who feel as though they put themselves in situations where they now feel really bad about doing that.
TOTENBERG: So I want to be very specific here for those who haven't read this piece.
SANDERS: Yeah, go ahead.
TOTENBERG: It's very explicit conduct of Mr. Ansari asking for oral sex, and her feeling, quote, "pressure to do it" and more. And she felt awful afterwards. She felt violated afterwards. And I would suggest that some version of this, hopefully not so extreme, happens to every young woman. And this woman was I think 22 or 23. Some boy usually or a young man is trying to get you to do something you really kind of don't want to do. And he talks you into it. And you feel awful afterwards because the little person in the back of your head said I don't really...
TOTENBERG: ...I don't think I should do that.
TOTENBERG: And I think that's what happened to her.
ALCINDOR: I find it - just for me. I find it hard to be having this conversation about a very private event that happened because you don't know unless you're in the room. Like there's a difference between a man asking you to sleep with you. And a man throwing you across the bed and saying, you know, I'm taking you now. Some people might find that to be completely amazing. Some people might find that to be, I'm not going to - I'm going to teach my son to be a little bit different than the way that he interacts with women.
TOTENBERG: To bring this full circle journalistically, when I first reached Anita Hill, found her and knew that she'd filed an affidavit with the Judiciary Committee. She asked me if there wasn't some way that she could do this without her identity becoming public. And I said no.
TOTENBERG: I said absolutely not.
TOTENBERG: Because if you're going to make a serious accusation against somebody you need to be willing to stand up and have a face. You cannot be a faceless informer.
SANDERS: A lot people...
TOTENBERG: A faceless informer is...
SANDERS: ...But a lot of young women and men today would say it's OK to be anonymous if you feel like your livelihood or your safety is - or if you just don't want a million tweets about you, right? I mean I...
ALCINDOR: I mean, as a reporter I lean toward the way that Nina is casting this in that the most of - many of the women that I talk to - the first story that I wrote about this, along with my colleague, we pushed to make sure we had women on the record who were - when they were naming men - mainly because, yes, it's true that it might be something that endangers your livelihood, but you're also might - you also might be endangering someone else's livelihood. If you stand up and say Senator so-and-so - or this one woman I interviewed she said that there was a congressman who made her twirl because he was attracted to her, and she had on this powder blue dress. And he essentially was, like, just turn around. Oh, I love your outfit and then gave her a raise because of that. As a result, I wanted to not - I wanted - I pushed to have her on the record because she was naming the man.
And as a result, I think that if - that we're in this culture where so many people think, oh, yeah, I'm just going to be anonymous because it's just easier. But I think that we have to push ourselves to be more than that because in and - I don't think that we should force people if they don't want to talk to us to tell us their names because obviously we could just not quote you. But I think if you want the authority that comes behind speaking to "PBS NewsHour" or somewhere else. I think most of the times it's worth it to also be putting your name out there.
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SANDERS: OK. One more quick break right here. When we come back, how men can support women in this movement - that and more after the break.
SANDERS: At the Golden Globes a few weeks ago, this award show had women walking the red carpet in black dresses in solidarity. And it seemed as if every woman on stage that night spoke about the #MeToo movement - this new Times Up movement. But say for the host of the show, Seth Meyers, not a single man on the stage that night actually addressed #MeToo at all.
TOTENBERG: It would have been crazy. But did you see...
SANDERS: But this is the thing...
TOTENBERG: But did you see the faces of the guys who were nominated for best director, I guess...
SANDERS: After someone said...
SANDERS: ...It's all man up for these awards.
TOTENBERG: After Natalie Portman said the all man - all male. And, I mean, it's not their fault they got nominated. But they looked actually embarrassed. And I felt a little sorry for them for at that point.
SANDERS: But, I mean - but like knowing that, it gets to a question that we got from a male listener in California, this Twitter user Michael Ceil (ph). He said how do you think guys and men can best respond to and support this movement knowing that even some of the most powerful men in the country, these leading men in Hollywood, kind of probably felt scared to talk about #MeToo at a place like the Golden Globes?
TOTENBERG: Be nice. And be willing to be an ally.
SANDERS: Yeah, yeah.
ALCINDOR: I think I would say two words which is speak up. I think that so many times men are in these gatherings where they hear problematic language. And they maybe don't say anything. And maybe you need to speak up and say, hey, you know what, guy? I know that your girl isn't here. There aren't women here. But I don't appreciate the way that you referenced that.
I think the other thing is that I don't feel bad for people who find themselves in positions of privilege because of either misogyny or racism. It's not to - it doesn't take away from whatever you've accomplished. But you should under - you should be reflecting - are these group of men better than every single woman director out there? Are these - these men have beat out every single woman in the country? If that's the case, then you can really believe that. Then you shouldn't feel bad. You wouldn't look - your face wouldn't look twisted. You would feel like, yes...
ALCINDOR: ...I deserve everything. If you realize that you saw a vid - a movie directed by a woman...
SANDERS: "Lady Bird"
ALCINDOR: ...And you know it better than yours. Then yeah, you're going to look pained.
TOTENBERG: Yes, nobody said how come Greta Gerwig wasn't nominated?
TOTENBERG: But probably whoever won, and I don't even remember who won - what man won, he probably should have said that. But he's the only person...
TOTENBERG: ...Who could have.
SANDERS: Hearing you - hearing us talk about how men can be a part of this conversation, it makes me think of the way that America deals with issues of race. Whenever there is a disaster or a tragedy involving race, everyone looks to black people and brown people to lead the conversation, to offer the suggestions, to help fix it. And you're literally asking people that have been oppressed and are oppressed to fix their own oppression. And that's pretty crappy.
And I think what we're seeing now with this Me Too movement, this expectation that women lead this conversation and this movement on their own when it's their oppression, that can't be the fix - like, that can't be the ultimate fix. Like, we cannot continue to ask the oppressed to solve their oppression on their own. And I think what people saw on that Golden Globe stage that night was men who could help...
TOTENBERG: They could help.
SANDERS: ...Saying nothing.
TOTENBERG: They could help. But the truth is when you get women in a room like that, and they were really - I hate to use this trite word.
SANDERS: Oh, use it.
TOTENBERG: They were really empowered. I could see how a man watching that would think - oh, my God. Just keep my head down. These women are out to - you know, they are looking for a reckoning. And I'm scared. And I don't want to scare men. But I want them to be stand-up guys.
SANDERS: Well, also, you know what though? Man, if you're scared, welcome to the world of women. You know, I was reading some B.S. article a few weeks ago. All these middle-aged men are afraid to hug people. And I thought of that.
As a black man, I have to constantly be aware of the way my body is perceived in public spaces - give you a small example. When I jog - and I jog a lot, every workday pretty much - if I'm ever running behind a woman who's by herself, behind a white woman, I step loudly, so she can hear my steps. And so she doesn't feel like I just came up on her quickly.
When I'm in the workplace, I'm aware of whether or not I'm smiling, whether or not I look like I'm angry - because it's such a low barrier to look angry as a black man, I swear to goodness. But I'm constantly aware of my body and how it moves through the world. So to hear these men say, well, I've never thought about how my body moves through this world and affects other people before, like, well, you know what? Deal with it.
TOTENBERG: Get over it.
ALCINDOR: I mean, for me I think it's OK for everyone to be a little uncomfortable...
ALCINDOR: ...Because it's essentially what I think a large majority of Americans are - or, I should say, the African-American, Hispanic - a lot of Americans feel that way. I was watching "This Is Us," which is one of my favorite, favorite shows.
ALCINDOR: And the African-American man who's been - or, African-American boy who has been adopted by these white parents said that - took his dad to Howard, and the dad kind of felt uncomfortable because, you know, he was one of the only white people on campus. And in the drive home, the son says to the dad, well, you know how you felt a little uncomfortable, even maybe even a little bit mad but you couldn't quite place what that was? That's what being black is like.
And I remember sitting back in my couch and thinking, oh, my God, he summed up being African-American, and I don't know what to do with that. But I think that there's this idea that people should be reflective of how they interact with people. So if you're rethinking the woman who you're hugging who kind of cringes every time, maybe she doesn't want to be hugged. And I think going back to that point you were making about whether or not the oppressed can free themselves, I think as an African-American, I've always appreciated the option to lead, which is, that you should not be dragging every one of your black co-workers into a conversation because you're mad about something that Donald Trump said. Like, that person maybe doesn't want to talk to you.
But I think that for a reporter like me, who has always told employers before they hired me I am someone who likes writing about race, I am someone that I don't care if I'm covering transportation or education or poverty, I will write about black people because that's what I like to write about. And obviously I'm going to write about everyone else, but there's this idea that race is very, very much at the top of my mind.
So I like that, but I am about to get married to someone who a sports reporter. Does that sports reporter need to write about only black athletes all the time? Of course not. But I think that - so I think that there's that aspect, and you have - people, men have to be allies in this. There has to be a moment where men sit back and say, do I deserve this? Do all the people around me deserve this? And, by the way, can I maybe talk to my female co-workers about how much money I make because maybe I'm getting paid more than her, and I know that she's either doing a better job than me or an equal job to me. Because just that small act of actually asking your female friends at work, how much do you make, how much do I make, could really revolutionize the workplace in general.
SANDERS: Yeah. Yeah. Last question. Quick yes or no. How ever many years after Anita Hill, the pre #MeToo, are we better off in terms of these issues?
TOTENBERG: Oh, my God. Yes.
TOTENBERG: I mean, just look at the workplace here. There are just tons of women, and in big executive jobs and nobody thinks twice about it.
ALCINDOR: I would agree with what Nina said mainly because she's the rock star journalist that broke the Anita Hill story, and there's this feeling that women who have been in the industry for a long time, if they can look at their careers and say that this has gotten better than I believe them, much like I believe women a lot of times. So there's this idea that I can read about the past and what it was like to be a political journalist and how women - what woman had to put up with, but I imagine that the role of a political journalist now as a woman is much easier to navigate than back then.
But as a black woman, I still say that race and racist issues and microaggressions in the workplace and outside of the workplace are something that I constantly deal with, especially as someone who has natural hair, that really needs to be fixed. So I think America is evolving, and I think they're going in that direction of it being a better country than a worse country, but I still think there's a whole lot of work to do.
SANDERS: This was - this lifted me up. I feel better about the state of things.
TOTENBERG: Yeah, but she's a reporter. So she's a realist.
ALCINDOR: I am a realist.
(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")
SANDERS: OK. Two legends right there. NPR's very own Nina Totenberg, and PBS White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor. She's into her second week on that job as of today. Congrats, Yamiche.
All right. Before I let you all go, I got one more quick announcement for you all. We are having a live show for IT'S BEEN A MINUTE. February 22, that is Thursday night, at NPR headquarters here in D.C. Me, some special guests and maybe you in the audience. You can buy tickets beginning on Thursday at nprpresents.org. Also, follow the NPR IT'S BEEN A MINUTE account on Twitter, and look out for the #IBAMLive because we're going to give away some tickets to the show on the interwebs. So stay tuned. More to come. Hope to see you in the audience next month. Thank you. Talk soon.
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