I went back and forth on whether or not I wanted to write about Monica Lewinsky on this blog. I think her TedTalk is incredible. She’s an eloquent speaker, and she’s speaking about an issue that is incredibly important and too often ignored: cyberbullying. Interestingly, though, none of her speech’s content is particularly feminist or tackles sexism. So… why did I decide to post? Because, I think the fact that she is speaking up now, that she has remained silent for so long, that we still refer to the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky Scandal as just that instead of the Bill Clinton scandal… I think all of that is due to sexism. And… all of that went unspoken…even by the woman most impacted.
I’m fairly confident that if the roles were reversed, if a female President had sex with a young male intern, the man would not face the type of humiliation that Monica Lewinsky experienced. Would he be famous? Absolutely. Would some people call him unethical or question his morality? Of course. But would he be forced into silence for nearly 20 years? Unable to gain steady employment? I highly doubt it.
In her TedTalk, Monica Lewinsky speaks about cyberbullying and how that experience destroyed her life. But she barely talks about sex-shaming, which is, in essence, what she experienced. She was attacked, by the public and the media, for engaging in consensual sex with a person who had significantly more power in the relationship — not to mention, the world! She was called a slut, a whore, “that woman,” and her reputation was ruined. No one ever stopped to consider that she was a real person, who had real feelings, and was in a relationship with someone with far, far more power & control than her.
We do this type of judging all the time. When a woman has a lot of sexual partners, she’s a slut. When a man does it, at worst he’s a player. More often, he’s just congratulated. I’m sick of this double standard. Women are expected to be pure and virginal, while also meeting the ridiculous standards of beauty (i.e. “sexy” models we see literally everywhere) determined by heterosexual, heteronormative men.
I’m glad that Monica Lewinsky has garnered the courage to come out of the shadows. And I’m very, very glad she’s raising awareness of cyberbullying. But I also wish that more people would be talking about how different the whole situation would have been, if the roles were reversed.