LOS ANGELES ― Marcia Clark is finally free from the sexist garbage she faced in the 1990s. And she is on fire.
“Bitch. Shrill. Strident. Emotional,” Clark ticked off some of the words that were used to describe her in the media, and even in court, when she prosecuted the O.J. Simpson trial in the early 1990s.
“All of it is demeaning, all of it is minimizing, all of it is a way to shrink a woman into what is basically a child,” she told a packed audience at a women’s conference here on Wednesday. “Anytime a woman raises her voice and shows her power, they find a way to minimize it.”
For her part, Clark said she walked out of that courtroom, devastated by the verdict, and never went back. She’s now in the middle of writing her eighth novel. Her new TV series, “Marcia Clark Investigates the First 48,” debuts on A&E next month.
Decades ago, no one seemed to notice the biased way Clark was treated, even as her looks, demeanor, private life and “likability” were dissected by the press. Even as Judge Lance Ito cautioned the jury not to be distracted by the length of Clark’s skirt. Finally, with the release of the FX series “The People v. OJ Simpson” in 2016, a new generation woke up and realized that Clark ― who was widely reviled back then ― got a raw deal.
Clark said she was shocked at the change in mindset. HuffPost caught up with her for a few minutes after her talk at the 2018 Makers Conference on Wednesday. (Makers is also owned by HuffPost’s parent company, Oath.)
During the trial, a lot of us didn’t see the sexism. You saw it. You must’ve been so frustrated.
I was aware of sexism. Going into the profession, in the law, women were far outnumbered. At the DAs office, too. On the 18th floor, there were four bathrooms and three of them were for men. Still I was able to succeed. I managed. I didn’t have to confront sexism on a regular basis. I didn’t have to think that much about it.
Until the Simpson trial.
I wind up in a courtroom full of men who are so profoundly sexist, it was shocking. And so it was a bit of a wake-up call for me.
What have your thoughts been watching the reconsideration of your treatment unfold?
I never thought it would happen. Never. The sexism at the trial wasn’t really something that anyone remarked on. Some did, but they were lone voices in the wilderness. Until voices join together in a chorus, nobody hears them. Particularly women.
So it really was not something I thought anyone would ever care about or notice. And then they did. That year after the FX series came out was a mind-blower for me on every level.
Talking to reporters who were outraged by what they’d seen. Who were disbelieving. The younger ones in particular. The millennials. That age group was like, “What the fuck?” [Laughs]
It was refreshing. It was across the board. The men and the women had the same reaction, which was amazing. I thought, OK, we really have moved forward. There really has been progress. There’s a whole generation that looks at that and says, “What bullshit.”
You really seem empowered. It seems like I’m seeing Marcia Clark, unleashed. Today, especially, when you said your message for men afraid to interact with women was “boo-fucking-hoo.” Do you feel more emboldened and empowered by the changing climate?
I think I’ve always been who I am. I kind of didn’t hold back in court, either. It got to a certain point in the trial when I realized he [Judge Ito] was not going to get any better. There was no appeasing him. Then Marcia Clark unleashed in that courtroom. I definitely resorted to my own voice.
I’m still just being me. I think all of us are, but maybe are feeling more empowered to speak out. To say, “This is not OK.” To say, I don’t want to support abusers in Hollywood just because they make money. I don’t want to hide a CEO’s sexual misconduct just because he makes money. In that sense, we have all found a voice that we were afraid to have before.
We talked about changing culture. Is there a changing culture in the criminal justice system around domestic violence?
Absolutely. So that’s the silver lining of the Simpson case. It really shined a light on domestic violence and the connection between domestic violence and murder. It exposed the thinking that domestic violence is somehow a private affair, a family matter, not a crime. That really exposed that lie.
Do you think the trial would’ve gone differently now?
I wouldn’t argue it differently. The case is the case. What will skew it again, if a case like that comes up again, is race. I don’t feel we are post-racial. Many of the problems existing then still exist today. As long as that divide exists, we will come up again and again against the same biases and problems that skewed this trial.
Here’s the perfect example: Trayvon Martin. I don’t how that jury found [shooter George Zimmerman] not guilty. How could they? It was a white jury. The notion that Trayvon was a thug, that kind of language [the defense] used, found real purchase with that jury, when it shouldn’t have. He was a kid. Zimmerman targeted him, no question, initiated the fight and then pulled out a gun.
I was outraged by that verdict. It goes both ways. I’m encouraged by Black Lives Matter. We need more of this.
A lot has changed for women. What’s left to change?
Women are speaking out, they’re finding their voice. They’re finding each other, which is the most important thing. The marches are a really important way to connect with other women and see our power when we come together.
We also need to see the real changes that can make women’s lives truly equal: Glass ceilings need to be broken, maternity leave needs to be a matter of course, childcare needs to be provided. These are the kinds of things we have to put in place. Now that we have spoken, let’s do it.
Did you march?
I didn’t wear the hat, there was one too few hats. That’s OK, I’m not really good in hats, anyway.