Monica Lewinsky on How the #MeToo Movement Has Redefined the Clinton Scandal
Monica Lewinsky is speaking out about the power and impact of the #MeToo movement, revealing it has enabled people to see the “gross abuse of power” that transpired between her and then-President Bill Clinton over 20 years ago.
In a powerful new personal essay for Vanity Fair, the 44-year-old reflected on the scandal that followed after her sexual relationship with Clinton, now 71, was revealed in 1998, leading to his impeachment trial and eventual acquittal. At the start of the affair a few years prior, Lewinsky was a 22-year-old White House intern.
Lewinsky wrote that the influx of women across industries speaking out against sexual harassment has enabled her — and the country — to view what happened through a different lens.
Still, Lewinsky — who has spoken before about being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder following the public-shaming she experienced at the time — revealed that she’s only just beginning to “consider the implications of the power differentials that were so vast between a president and a White House intern.” It’s a change she attributed to living in a post-Harvey Weinstein world.
“Until recently (thank you, Harvey Weinstein), historians hadn’t really had the perspective to fully process and acknowledge that year of shame and spectacle,” she wrote in Vanity Fair, adding that even though what occurred between herself and Clinton wasn’t sexual assault, “we now recognize that it constituted a gross abuse of power.”
Lewinsky also went on to reveal that viewing her past trauma in a new light has been challenging.
“The reason this is difficult is that I’ve lived for such a long time in the House of Gaslight, clinging to my experiences as they unfolded in my 20s and railing against the untruths that painted me as an unstable stalker and Servicer in Chief,” she wrote in Vanity Fair.
“Given my PTSD and my understanding of trauma, it’s very likely that my thinking would not necessarily be changing at this time had it not been for the #MeToo movement—not only because of the new lens it has provided but also because of how it has offered new avenues toward the safety that comes from solidarity,” she added.
But because of the #MeToo movement, Lewinsky said, “I now see how problematic it was that the two of us even got to a place where there was a question of consent. Instead, the road that led there was littered with inappropriate abuse of authority, station, and privilege.”
“I’m beginning to entertain the notion that in such a circumstance the idea of consent might well be rendered moot,” she continued.
Given the new conditions in which the country is able to view sexual misconduct, Lewinsky added in her Vanity Fair essay, “My hope, given the two decades that have passed, is that we are now at a stage where we can untangle the complexities and context (maybe even with a little compassion), which might help lead to an eventual healing—and a systemic transformation.”
The lengthy piece covered numerous topics related to the anniversary of the scandal, including an accidental run-in Lewinsky had with Kenneth Starr — the independent counsel who lead the investigation into the relationship now two decades ago — last December.
As recently as last November, several former top advisers to President Obama and the Clintons voiced their support for Lewinsky. During an interview with MSNBC, Jennifer Palmieri, the communications director for Hillary Clinton who also worked for former President Clinton’s administration, said that she was sorry for everything Lewinsky had undergone.
“Monica Lewinsky was my intern and the relationship the president had with her was very inappropriate,” said Palmieri. “It was a consensual relationship, but he was the President of the United States and she was a 24-year-old intern — that is taking advantage of a power dynamic on a historic scale.”
Lewinsky’s essay will be available in the March 2018 issue of Vanity Fair, available on newsstands nationwide on March 6.