Monica Lewinsky says #MeToo movement changed her view of Bill Clinton affair

Monica Lewinsky said the women's movement had led her to re-examine the power dynamics at play.

Monica Lewinsky said the women's movement had led her to re-examine the power dynamics at play. Photo: Getty

Monica Lewinksy has penned an essay about how the #MeToo movement has changed her view of the events that transpired as a result of her relationship with former president Bill Clinton.

In January 1998, one of the most well-known sex scandals in history surfaced about a young White House intern, Ms Lewinsky, and the president of the United States, Mr Clinton.

The story dominated news cycles for months and Ms Lewinsky was vilified by the media and publicly shamed.

One 1998 New York Times opinion piece labelled Ms Lewinsky “a ditsy, predatory intern who might have lied under oath for a job at Revlon” and “the girl who was too tubby to be in the high school ‘in’ crowd”.

Meanwhile, she became the punchline of jokes on late-night television well into the mid 2000s.

“Today Monica Lewinsky is 28 — it seemed like just yesterday she was crawling around on the floor in the Oval Office,” joked David Letterman to raucous studio applause in 2001.

Long before slut-shaming was a term, Ms Lewinsky was its original target.

Monica Lewinksy

Monica Lewinsky credits the #MeToo movement with helping her overcome her past trauma. Photo: Getty

But twenty years later in Vanity Fair article, Ms Lewinksy says the #MeToo movement — which emerged as a social media hashtag in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein allegations — has helped her overcome her “trauma” of the past.

“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’,” Ms Lewinsky writes in Vanity Fair.

“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.”

While Ms Lewinsky has maintained her relationship with Mr Clinton was consensual, she said the women’s movement had led her to re-examine the power dynamics at play.

Referring to the period as the “fog of 1998”, Ms Lewinsky describes the “gross abuse of power” that transpired between her and “the most powerful man in the world”, Mr Clinton.

“I have grappled with the rest of the world’s interpretations and Bill Clinton’s reinterpretations of what happened. But in truth, I have done this at arm’s length,” she writes.

“I’m beginning to entertain the notion that in such a circumstance the idea of consent might well be rendered moot … But it’s also complicated. Very, very complicated.

“The dictionary definition of ‘consent’? ‘To give permission for something to happen’. And yet what did the ‘something’ mean in this instance, given the power dynamics, his position, and my age?

“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.”

Ms Lewinsky also said the support from the women’s movement had encouraged her to evolve beyond a victim mentality and brought her closer to finding closure.

“I had my family and friends to support me. But by and large I had been alone… swimming in that sea of aloneness was terrifying,” Ms Lewinsky said.

“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 energised movement is the sheer number of women who have spoken up in support of one another.

“I — we — owe a huge debt of gratitude to the #MeToo and Time’s Up heroines. They are speaking volumes against the pernicious conspiracies of silence that have long protected powerful men when it comes to sexual assault, sexual harassment, and abuse of power.

“But I know one thing for certain: part of what has allowed me to shift is knowing I’m not alone anymore. And for that I am grateful.”

The #MeToo movement and Time’s Up — a collective of more than 300 women in Hollywood fighting sexual harassment — have so far raised $US21 million in less than two months for a legal defence fund.

The Vanity Fair article marks the 20th anniversary of Kenneth Starr’s investigation into Mr Clinton which eventually led to his impeachment.

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