Monica Lewinsky Opens Up To Vanity Fair About Slut-Shaming, Humilation And … Beyoncé

monica lewinsky vanity fair

You only need to look at the front page of The New York Times to find out what Bill and Hillary Clinton accomplish on a daily basis. But what about someone who used to be in the headlines every single day, followed by years of near-silence?

For the first time ever, Monica Lewinsky is opening up in Vanity Fair about her affair with then-President Clinton. She’s written openly about the humiliation she suffered from her involvement in the very first sex scandal of the Internet Age, her struggles with suicidal thoughts, and her disappointment in Hillary Clinton’s slut-shaming attitude towards her. The 40-year-old Lewinsky sounds poised, mature and in control of her own narrative — sadly, perhaps, for the first time.

The past 12 years have been rough, both financially and emotionally. Lewinsky got a Master’s degree from the London School of Economics and has lived in NYC, L.A. and Portland, Oregon. But like many women with public sexual histories, she’s had difficulty finding employment. She interviewed for plenty of jobs in communications, she wrote in Vanity Fair, but “because of what potential employers so tactfully referred to as my ‘history,’ I was never ‘quite right’ for the position.” Lewinsky also is recognized every single day.

But now — related or unrelated to the Hillary ’16 rumors — the owner of the world’s most famous blue dress would like to establish more dignity in her life. “I am determined to have a different ending to my story,” Lewinsky writes. “I’ve decided, finally, to stick my head above the parapet so that I can take back my narrative and give a purpose to my past. (What this will cost me, I will soon find out.)” Her feelings on the affair probably surprise no one:  ”I, myself, deeply regret what happened between me and President Clinton. Let me say it again: I. Myself. Deeply. Regret. What. Happened.”

But it’s not just personal regret for poor decisions that she feels. The abuse the then-24-year-old endured — shamed, hounded and humiliated by the media and the Washington, D.C. establishment — has been harder to swallow. And yes, it was abuse:

“Sure, my boss took advantage of me, but I will always remain firm on this point: it was a consensual relationship. Any ‘abuse’ came in the aftermath, when I was made a scapegoat in order to protect his powerful position…. The Clinton administration, the special prosecutor’s minions, the political operatives on both sides of the aisle, and the media were able to brand me. And that brand stuck, in part because it was imbued with power.”

Like many people who have been bullied and humiliated, her mental health suffered greatly. After the affair broke in 1998, Lewinsky suffered bouts of suicidal ideation. Her mother used to  stay at her apartment “night after night, because I … was suicidal.” She writes, “The shame, the scorn, and the fear that had been thrown at her daughter left her afraid that I would take my own life—a fear that I would be literally humiliated to death.” The suicide of Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers student who committed suicide after his roommate broadcast his gay hookup to classmates over a webcam, hit the Lewinskys particularly hard. That could have been her.

Lewinsky name checks The Drudge Report for some of her abuse. But she also has a thing or two to say about Hillary Clinton and her slut-shaming behavior towards the woman her husband had an affair with (as opposed to, you know, dumping the cheating cad). In the ’90s, the news came out that Hillary had told a friend that Lewinsky was “a narcissistic loony toon.” Lewinsky writes in Vanity Fair:

“My first thought as I was getting up to speed: If that’s the worst thing she said, I should be so lucky. Mrs. Clinton, I read, had supposedly confided to Blair that, in part, she blamed herself for her husband’s affair (by being emotionally neglectful) and seemed to forgive him. … Yes, I get it. Hillary Clinton wanted it on record that she was lashing out at her husband’s mistress. She may have faulted her husband for being inappropriate, but I find her impulse to blame the Woman—not only me, but herself—troubling.”

To this day, the Clintons are still married and support each other at every turn. Neither has had quite the same employment troubles as Lewinsky.

It’s not just Hillary Clinton that Lewinsky has a few words for: she also would like to offer a correction to Beyoncé. Yes, Beyoncé. “Thanks, Beyoncé, but if we’re verbing,” she wrote, “I think you meant ‘Bill Clinton’d all on my gown,’ not ‘Monica Lewinsky’d,’” referring to the lyrics to Bey’s song “Partition.”

I admire Lewinsky’s bravery for writing this essay and the courage she has to stand up for herself after over a decade on the losing side of a sexual double-standard. Clinton may have been impeached by the House of Representatives, but his flirtatious attitude towards the ladies is practically synonymous with “boys will be boys.” As feminist author Jessica Valenti would say, he’s a stud but she’s a slut. Of course, Lewinsky indisputably participated willingly in her own undoing; she doesn’t deny responsibility for that. She’s simply saying, and this I agree with, that cruelty towards other human beings shouldn’t exist.  No one, no one, deserves humiliation and bullying that drives them to consider suicide. Lewinsky seems like a lovely woman who’s learned from her mistakes and could be far more damaged than she appears.

[Vanity Fair]

Email me at Jessica@TheFrisky.com. Follow me on Twitter.

[Image by Mark Seliger for Vanity Fair]

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