Monica Lewinsky Lets It All Hang Out

             

It’s been 16 years since the infamous tainted blue dress rocked our political system and media, but this month Monica Lewinsky has come forward with a heartfelt first-person narrative in Vanity Fair. Lewinsky’s admitted reasons for coming forward after a decade and a half of silence and hiding are many.

Monica Lewinksy in 2014 as featured in Vanity Fair
Monica Lewinsky, 2014 (via Vanity Fair)

 

In one instance, Lewinsky mentions the 2010 suicide of Tyler Clementi, a freshman at Rutgers who took his own life after video of him engaging in affection with another man was broadcast on the Internet. Lewinsky references a compassion for Tyler and his public humiliation based on a private relationship, but commendably acknowledges the grave variances between the roles in their respective scenarios.

Lewinsky goes on to write about her first reactions when, earlier this year, Senator Rand Paul dragged her name back into the political spotlight in regard to Hillary Clinton’s (and his own) involvement in the upcoming presidential race. This thrust Lewinsky back into the public eye and led to an unearthing of documentation of Hillary Clinton’s reactions to the 90s affair.

Monica Lewinsky & Bill Clinton in the 90sOne major highlight of Lewinsky’s essay includes quoting Mrs. Clinton referring to the author as a "narcissistic loony toon," following which, Lewinsky makes an anecdotal effort to redeem herself from being both narcissistic and loony. She even expresses a reluctant empathy for Mrs. Clinton, expressing disappointment at the realization that Mrs. Clinton would also blame herself for the affair in the same breath that she did Lewinsky. Today, just as in the 2002 HBO documentary about her affair and the fallout from it, Lewinsky attributes much of her character’s crucifixion to our patriarchal society and alludes to the idea that President Clinton should have been held accountable by his wife as well as the media.

Later in the piece, Lewinsky delves into the "catty coven" roundtable that discussed her in 1998, just nine days into the scandal. Lewinsky could have chosen to simply acknowledge that a group of influential women was collected for shock value and entertainment, in the moment intending to rip apart nothing more than a caricature of her identity. Instead, she buckles from the weight of insult and offers line-by-line responses to their commentary. Her otherwise calm, cool and collected narrative voice shatters, mid-article, to that of the hurt 20-year-old still reeling from the public exposure of her sexual indiscretions.

It’s easy to wonder whether Lewinsky’s choice to come forward when Mrs. Clinton is poised to make a bid for the 2016 presidency is intended to be malicious. Many journalists and critics have surmised that Lewinsky’s essay publication is a last-ditch effort at tarnishing the Clintons’ name one more time. On the other hand, a woman who has been so aggressively vilified in the media without any recourse for defending herself might be expected to utilize such a platform to lash out at her condemners, whether that platform was realized 16 years in the future or 60. After all, we were all young once, and lord knows it wasn’t always easy to be 20 in the ’90s, especially under an international microscope.

 

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