“I Think You Meant Bill Clinton’d”: Monica Lewinsky Responds To Beyoncé’s Partition & Hillary Clinton’s Slut Shaming

May 6, 2014  |  

PHOTOGRAPH BY MARK SELIGER FOR VANITY FAIR

I swear to you, just the other day when I was walking down the street listening to “Partition,” I thought, I wonder if Monica Lewinsky has actually heard this song and what she thinks about it? It was a fleeting thought. But you know what they say about the power of the universe and your mind’s ability to draw things to yourself. And so just today, I was very…delighted, yeah delighted, to see what Monica not only had to say about Beyoncé’s song but what life has been like for her the past few years.

Recently, the former White House intern and later employee wrote an essay for Vanity Fair where she explains just that. You may have noticed that Lewinsky has essentially been out of the limelight for almost ten years while she tried to avoid the public attention. She’s been so quiet that it’s led many to believe that the Clinton’s paid for her to go sit down somewhere and be shut up. But Lewinsky, who is now 40, says it was her decision to get away. She ultimately moved to London where she earned her master’s degree in social psychology at the London School of Economics. And she’s lived in New York, Porland, Oregon and Los Angeles in between.

So the burning question is why has she decided to speak out now? Well, first and foremost she wants us all to know,

“I, myself, deeply regret what happened between me and President Clinton. Let me say it again: I. Myself. Deeply. Regret. What. Happened.”

But she’s also tired of having to hide for over a decade for a mistake she made when she was 24 years old.

I am determined to have a different ending to my story. 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.)”

Over the years, as we’ve attempted to challenge rape culture in this country, people have started to question whether the relationship was truly consensual, whether or not Lewinsky felt pressure to “engage” with Bill Clinton because of his position as President of the United States. Monica explains it this way.

“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.”

Seriously. We all know that Slick Willie, walked away from this affair, his legacy still, for the most part, in tact while Lewinsky was ostracized and shamed. She recalled, hearing how Hillary Clinton decided to spin the scandal in a character analysis she shared with Diane Blair, her closest friend.

In February, Hillary Clinton, during the 1990s, had characterized her as a “narcissistic loony toon” in correspondence with close friend Diane Blair. “My first thought,” Lewinsky writes, “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.”

But it wasn’t just her character that was called into question. Any type of job prospects dwindled in the aftermath of the affair.

“I turned down offers that would have earned me more than $10 million, because they didn’t feel like the right thing to do.” After moving between London (where she got her master’s degree in social psychology at the London School of Economics), Los Angeles, New York, and Portland, Oregon, she interviewed for numerous jobs in communications and branding with an emphasis on charity campaigns, but, “because of what potential employers so tactfully referred to as my ‘history,’” she writes, “I was never ‘quite right’ for the position. In some cases, I was right for all the wrong reasons, as in ‘Of course, your job would require you to attend our events.’ And, of course, these would be events at which press would be in attendance.”

And the economic ice out wasn’t the only price she paid. In 1998, when everything was all out in the open, Lewinsky’s mother had to stay with her in her apartment for several nights because Monica had expressed that she was having suicidal thoughts. All of this came back to her memory when 18 year old Tyler Clementi kissing another man was secretly streamed across the internet for his peers to see. You may remember that Clementi took his own life in 2010.

Lewinsky writes, she was brought to tears, but her mother was especially distraught: “She was reliving 1998, when she wouldn’t let me out of her sight. She was replaying those weeks when she stayed by my bed, night after night, because I, too, was suicidal. 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.” Lewinsky clarifies that she has never actually attempted suicide, but had strong suicidal temptations several times during the investigations and during one or two periods after.

Lewinsky writes that following Clementi’s tragedy “my own suffering took on a different meaning. Perhaps by sharing my story, I reasoned, I might be able to help others in their darkest moments of humiliation. The question became: How do I find and give a purpose to my past?” She also says that, when news of her affair with Clinton broke in 1998, not only was she arguably the most humiliated person in the world, but, “thanks to the Drudge Report, I was also possibly the first person whose global humiliation was driven by the Internet.” Her current goal, she says, “is to get involved with efforts on behalf of victims of online humiliation and harassment and to start speaking on this topic in public forums.”

And lastly, she writes about the lyrics to Beyoncé’s “Partition”:

“Thanks, Beyoncé, but if we’re verbing, I think you meant ‘Bill Clinton’d all on my gown,’ not ‘Monica Lewinsky’d.’”

Boom!

I mean, I’m sure I’m in the minority here but I can actually empathize with Monica. Growing up in the ’90’s I was conditioned to think Monica Lewinsky was pretty low down, bottom of the barrel. But thankfully, now that I’m older and just a couple years past 24 myself, having made my own mistakes I wouldn’t want broadcast to the world, I find I’m a lot more sympathetic. Not only because it was a bad decision–or a series of bad decisions– she now regrets but also because I’m wondering how long she should have to suffer for this when we’ve all but forgiven Slick Willie? In this country’s eyes Monica, as Beyoncé said, came on her own damn dress and we can’t get past it. Why are we so forgiving of one party and not the other, particularly when that one party was the married one, the one who was getting sucked off when we entrusted him to run the country?! And I really like Bill Clinton but fair is fair. Can we cut Monica some slack now? Can we agree that she’s paid the price and suffered enough already? Being placed in a position, even if you had a hand in placing yourself there, where you consider taking your own life is something no one should ever have to experience. No one, ever.

Aside from all of that I admire the fact that she’s taking her own personal shame, which she had to relive over and over and over and over again and using it to possibly help those who have been similarly, but never on the same scale, humiliated. I can respect that.

What do you think about Monica’s essay and the double standard/slut shaming she faced in order to protect the presidency? What do you think about her reemerging now in an attempt to help others?

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