“‘I’m so sorry you were so alone.’ Those seven words undid me,” Monica Lewinsky writes for Vanity Fair about an exchange she had with a leader of 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.”
Most may know Monica Lewinsky as "the other woman" — she's often framed in the media as a seductive, fame-seeking, twenty-two-year-old intern who pursued Bill Clinton in the late '90s. But what was overlooked when the affair was covered was Lewinsky’s side of the story, which was rewritten in order to save the reputation of the President. But today, with the support of the #MeToo movement, Lewinsky has finally discovered the support she was denied for two decades.
Back in the '90s, the media never addressed the idea that the power dynamic between a twenty-two year old intern and the most powerful man of America could be anything but equal — and neither did Lewinsky herself, she writes. Now, thanks to the #MeToo movement, she's reconsidering.
“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. 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),” she writes.
“But it’s also complicated. Very, very complicated. The dictionary definition of ‘consent’? ‘To give permission for something to happen,’” Lewinsky continues. “And yet what did the ‘something’ mean in this instance, given the power dynamics, his position, and my age? Was the ‘something’ just about crossing a line of sexual (and later emotional) intimacy? (An intimacy I wanted—with a 22-year-old’s limited understanding of the consequences.) He was my boss. He was the most powerful man on the planet. He was 27 years my senior, with enough life experience to know better. He was, at the time, at the pinnacle of his career, while I was in my first job out of college. (Note to the trolls, both Democratic and Republican: none of the above excuses me for my responsibility for what happened. I meet Regret every day.)”
Lewinsky credits the #MeToo movement for her new understanding: “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,” she writes, “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.”
Read more of Monica Lewinsky’s essay at Vanity Fair.
Top photo via TED
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Emalani Artiss is a recent Sarah Lawrence College grad with a personalized major focusing on the study of women and bodies in media. Her work embraces the weirdness and wonders of womanhood & is most often inspired by people she sees on the subway.
You can follow her on Instagram at @emalaniartiss or emalaniartiss.cargocollective.com