Monica Lewinsky says that she is asked about the #MeToo movement everywhere she goes. This week, she choose to share her perspective in a very powerful piece for Vanity Fair:
Lewinsky writes about her evolved perspective on the inappropriate relationship between herself and her former boss, President Clinton. She writes that “my thinking would not necessarily be changing at this time had it not been for the #MeToo movement” and thanks the women in the movement who have come forward. I think that everyone should thank Lewinsky herself for sharing her growth on this matter:
Just four years ago, in an essay for this magazine, I wrote the following: “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.” I now see how problematic it was that the two of us even got to a place where there was a question of consent. Instead, the road that led there was littered with inappropriate abuse of authority, station, and privilege. (Full stop.)
Lewinsky mentions how it is retriggering women to speak out during this #MeToo, so we should be thankful to her and all others for activating their trauma for our education and betterment. She shares regret for her actions, as she has in the past. But what stands out here is the acknowledgement of a change in her understanding of the unhealthy power dynamic that was at play between her and her boss.
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.)
Lewinsky is clear that while at the time she viewed the dynamic as consensual at the time, with the wisdom of 20 years she has recognized the problematic nature of engaging in sexual activity with someone who holds professional power over you. What she is saying is that this power can be abused without recognition. This is a lesson we can all take to heart and apply to our own lives as we choose to live positively.
And it may prove to be important to consider her perspective in the context of our current administration and the past sex scandals that are coming to light. If we learn of an sexual abuse of power in this current administration, the comparisons between the cheaters-in-chief and their victims will be inevitable. Let’s remember to reflect on the wisdom of this 44 year old woman who endured the spotlight of the nation and came out with the strength to continue sharing her story, if a modern story does come to light.
Monica Lewinsky — You Are Not Alone. Thank you for continuing to share your perspective.