Why Monica Lewinsky Still Matters Kit Steinkellner

We all know Monica Lewinsky’s name. We all know what happened in the Oval Office. What I didn’t realize, until I read this exclusive with Lewinsky recently published in Vanity Fair, is that Lewinsky, for the past ten years, has been virtually silent with regards to her affair with President Bill Clinton. Other people have told her story for her. It’s only now that she’s opening up and telling her story for herself. And what she’s saying is that she no longer wants her life to be defined by a now almost twenty-year old scandal. Monica Lewinsky was a twenty-two year old intern when she had a sexual relationship with the President of the United States. She’s forty years old now. And she’s sick of living in silence. And she’s unwilling to let her mistake be her life.

“It’s time to burn the beret and the blue dress,” she says in the piece. “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.)”

I’m so deeply impressed with this statement. It takes guts to stand out in the open and try to change yourself no matter who you are, and it takes guts of steel to try to change your story when you are Monica Lewinsky, a woman who, up until this point at least, has been inseparable from her public humiliation.

I haven’t thought much about Lewinsky since the scandal, which happened when I was in elementary school. I was a child and she was a national joke. Now that I’m older than Lewinsky, I can’t help but feel so much for her. She was only 22, and 22 is so young. She was bullied and slut-shamed for her sexuality in the media. Perhaps if it had all gone down today, she would have been defended more vigilantly from the tabloid mocking machine.

I in no way condone her actions or behavior during her time working in the White House. Still, I’ve made mistakes in my past. We’ve all made mistakes in our past. By and large, those mistakes stay in the past. They don’t define our lives. I can’t imagine the hell it must be to have your mistake BE your life. And I can’t imagine the courage it must take to push hard against the tidal wave of public opinion and try to take back your name, take back your reputation, take back your life, take back everything that’s been taken away from you.

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  1. I like this, I appreciate the sentiment expressed overall in this article. Yet, I can’t but cringe at “I never thought I’d type the words “Monica Lewinsky may very well end up being a role model,” and “I in no way condone her actions or behavior during her time working in the White House”. I understand what is being said, your position, everything, but truly believe these phrases are not necessary. Their subtext perpetuates the same perception of Monica Lewinsky you try to eliminate.

  2. Great article!

  3. Really like this article and agree with you, Kit. A mistake at 22 shouldn’t define your life.

    Tracey Harrington McCoy | 5/07/2014 11:05 pm
  4. While I don’t condone her actions OR his in any way to this day.. This article got me to thinking. This happened when I was like 6….. While at the time I had absolutely no idea what all of this meant, I knew the name Monica Lewinsky, and I knew she had done something bad. I knew President Clinton was also in the wrong, but even at such a young age, my little brain had heard so much more about Monica herself and so, therefore I basically grew up thinking Monica Lewinsky = bad. She was essentially vilified in the media, to the point where a little kid placed more of the blame on her, than on the other party involved. (Not that I really cared about these things then, But I was aware!).

  5. The affair might have been a young person’s mistake, that one should not be judged for, for their entire life. However, wasn’t she the one running to the media making it all public and trying to profit from the whole story? And profit from it she did, her reputation is what she traded for it, so… I dont feel that sorry for her. Who would jeoperdize the rare opportunity of a White House Internship like that and then try to profit from it, which btw, i think was her true mistake.

    • Nertilë, no she did not leak the story to the media AT ALL. She made the horrible mistake of confiding in a very bad “best friend,” Linda Tripp, who secretly recorded what Monica thought was a private conversation, and then leaked the story. Imagine if you were college-aged, had a regretful hookup, and your BFF told the whole world about it. I always felt really bad for Monica.

  6. And about the whole “she made a mistake” thing – I don’t think that she did. She had an affair with an older man, that’s not a mistake, that’s just life. And it may not be percived as a mistake if it would’t be so public. The problem is that people focused on her instead of focusing on the issue. I don’t think that her name should be given to public information.

  7. I do belive that Clinton should be shamed sooooo much more than he was, and Monica so much less that she was. (after all, he was the one in position of power and married, she was not), and afer that being said – while I agree and I’m really glad for her that she’s trying to rewrite her story of shame, I think that you’re overastemaing importance of her doing so. And calling her a role model sounds like a joke. She didn’t seem to have that much problem with the scandal when it was helping her to sell her own line of purses, did she? So I think she’s the kind of person who will try to make the best of the worst situation, whitch is a great, but does not make her a role model material. Not in my eyes at least.

  8. Doesn’t anyone remember her HBO special? And then her purse designing thing? She’s never really been off the grid…

  9. completely agree with this. No one should have to endure that amount of public shaming and vitriol for so many years. She was 22 years old. She made a mistake.

  10. Well said!

  11. Love this.

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