#MeToo gives Lewinsky fresh view of scandal
UNITED STATES: Monica Lewinsky says the #MeToo movement has forced her to rethink whether she was able to consent to a sexual relationship with Bill Clinton amid the power dynamics of a US president and a 20-something intern.
In a Vanity Fair article, Lewinsky said she was in awe of women who confronted powerful men but said she was still working through the events that made her a household name 20 years ago.
It had led her to realise that the path to the Clinton affair was ‘‘littered with abuse of authority’’, she added.
‘‘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,’’ she wrote.
‘‘I’m beginning to entertain the notion that in such a circumstance the idea of consent might well be rendered moot.’’
Lewinsky’s affair with Clinton became public during the 1998 investigation led by independent counsel Ken Starr. The story of their Oval Office trysts and a blue dress made her fodder for tabloids and the punchline of many jokes. Clinton was impeached for lying under oath about their relationship but was acquitted by the Senate and avoided removal from office.
For Lewinsky, the result was a lifetime of running from reporters as her personal life was revealed to the world. Her mother was forced to testify against her before a federal grand jury, and she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
In the article, she described how she was reconsidering her past depictions of the affair, which she had always insisted had been consensual.
‘‘I now see how problematic it was that the two of us even got to a place where there was a question of consent,’’ she wrote. ‘‘Instead, the road that led there was littered with inappropriate abuse of authority, station and privilege.’’
She attributed her new take to the wave of #MeToo protests and the accounts of numerous women of the abuse they suffered at the hands of powerful men.
‘‘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,’’ she wrote.
For a time, Lewinsky used her celebrity status to pursue commercial opportunities – designing handbags, and working as a spokeswoman for a diet plan. But she left the public gaze to pursue a master’s degree in psychology before returning to the public eye in 2014, to speak out against cyberbullying.
Since then, the worlds of American politics, entertainment and media have been rocked by a catalogue of sexual harassment and abuse allegations, which began when stories emerged about Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
Lewinsky said she hoped the new activism and a reshaping of public life meant perpetrators would no longer be able to use isolation as a weapon against women.
She said she had suffered years of online abuse, but was encouraged that women could now find a place among supporters and sympathisers on social media.
– Telegraph Group
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