Monica Lewinsky Pens #MeToo-Inspired Essay About Affair With Bill Clinton
MONICA LEWINSKY ON #METOO
Lewinsky, 44, published her work in Vanity Fair and explains that she is only just beginning to re-evaluate the events that took place while she worked in the White House. “I’ve lived for so long in the House of Gaslight, clinging to my experiences as they unfolded in my 20s,” she said. “But as I find myself reflecting on what happened, I’ve also come to understand how my trauma has been, in a way, a microcosm of a larger, national one.”
Four years ago, also for Vanity Fair, Lewinsky wrote that, at the time in 1998, her relationship with the president was consensual and that the abuse occurred later. With the #MeToo movement and so many women speaking out against the powerful men who abuse them, Lewinsky is finally able to shed some light on her own experiences.
“Now, at 44, I’m beginning (just beginning) to consider the implications of the power differentials that were so vast between a president and a White House intern,” she said. “I’m beginning to entertain the notion that in such a circumstance the idea of consent might well be rendered moot. (Although power imbalances—and the ability to abuse them—do exist even when the sex has been consensual.)”
Lewinsky also adds that hearing from various members of #MeToo who are at the forefront of the movement helped her more than she expected. “‘I’m so sorry you were so alone.’ Those seven words undid me. They were written in a recent private exchange I had with one of the brave women leading the #MeToo movement. Somehow, coming from her—a recognition of sorts on a deep, soulful level—they landed in a way that cracked me open and brought me to tears,” Lewinsky said.
“Isolation is such a powerful tool to the subjugator. And yet I don’t believe I would have felt so isolated had it all happened today. One of the most inspiring aspects of this newly energized movement is the sheer number of women who have spoken up in support of one another,” she continued. “And the volume in numbers has translated into volume of public voice. Historically, he who shapes the story (and it is so often a he) creates ‘the truth.’ But this collective rise in decibel level has provided a resonance for women’s narratives. If the Internet was a bête noire to me in 1998, its stepchild—social media—has been a savior for millions of women today (notwithstanding all the cyberbullying, online harassment, doxing, and slut-shaming).”
Some people don’t believe that Lewinsky should have a part in the growing movement for women’s rights and equality, which she also addressed in her essay. “There are many more women and men whose voices and stories need to be heard before mine. (There are even some people who feel my White House experiences don’t have a place in this movement, as what transpired between Bill Clinton and myself was not sexual assault, although we now recognize that it constituted a gross abuse of power.) And yet, everywhere I have gone for the past few months, I’ve been asked about it,” she wrote. “My response has been the same: I am in awe of the sheer courage of the women who have stood up and begun to confront entrenched beliefs and institutions. But as for me, my history, and how I fit in personally? I’m sorry to say I don’t have a definitive answer yet on the meaning of all of the events that led to the 1998 investigation; I am unpacking and reprocessing what happened to me. Over and over and over again.”
Her essay ended on a powerful note, agreeing that the time is finally here for the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements. “Through all of this, during the past several months, I have been repeatedly reminded of a powerful Mexican proverb: ‘They tried to bury us; they didn’t know we were seeds,'” she said. “Spring has finally sprung.”