Why Can’t Monica Lewinsky Have Her Own Life (and Career)?
This is the only way we see her these days; long before Paris Hilton, she was famous for becoming infamous. Earlier, she was trying to make a little money or a little noise making diet commercials, telling cruise ship audiences her story, or doing reality shows or walking the red carpet. Now she just wants to be left alone, but they’re going to make a movie about Bill Clinton and her. It never ends. They haven’t found someone yet to play her: oval faced, long, rich dark hair, heavy-hipped. They may not; they may just use footage. Monica Samille Lewinsky is now 35–middle-aged now, one might say–but she still doesn’t have much of a life or a career to show for it.
Barbara Walters of The View said something really touching a few weeks ago; that while Bill and Hill have patched up their marriage and moved on to new prestige (if you can call it that), Monica has not been allowed to move on and to excel–in her own way. She keeps wearing her own version of “the scarlet letter” over ten years after she came to public attention. It’s her face.
Even Linda Tripp, who earned the everlasting contempt of girlfriends all over the country for taping Monica’s confidences and exposing her, has her own business with a new husband. However, she doesn’t look like Linda Tripp any more; she’s changed her face through plastic surgery. A British reporter visited Tripp’s gift shop in Virginia, but wasn’t entirely convinced that the woman who called herself Karen wasn’t Tripp herself. Yet Tripp has been able to blend back into the crowd, to disappear into the everyday. Monica can’t.
During Hill’s ill-fated presidential run, the media made pointed references to the Lewinsky scandal, as it is still called, on its tenth anniversary. Someone in the audience on two occasions asked Chelsea Clinton, who was campaigning on behalf of her mother, about the residual impact Monica Lewinsky had on her parents, or what she felt about Lewinsky. I thought that this was a low blow, because those questions should have been forced on Bill Clinton himself, who some people feel had weaseled out of apologizing to Lewinsky. True, at the time she was over 21, meaning she wasn’t stupid or ignorant. Nonetheless, Bill Clinton was as much a willing and eager participant in this mess as she was an tempting initiator. To misquote Steve Harvey, There’s always a man out there willing to cheat with a woman.
At the same time, I had to admire Monica. She named her desire and went out for it, which was something to be praised and encouraged from feminists and womanists. However, this was the wrong man and the wrong situation to be so bold. The Right had been waiting to catch Bill Clinton at his weakest point. Naturally, the women’s community was divided about her. Some called Monica a homewrecker, not a sheroe. I think she was neither at that time. I think she was a little girl.
I used to call Monica Lewinsky, “Har-Monica,” meaning that I felt that we were all getting played (or blown) by this laughable non-scandal between two consenting, but flawed adults. I’m not laughing now. I don’t blame her for getting a gig out of Bill Clinton and his connections, and then, after she was exposed, for trying to make lemonade out of the lemons she was given. She hasn’t been able to get a real job before and after she received a master’s degree abroad from the London School of Economics. (She wouldn’t have been able to beat off the paparazzi at an American university or college.)
Frankly, the companies don’t really know her. It’s not like she’s going to turn a department into a bordello. Sometimes I think these people choose her from the final three or five just to see who she is for themselves and to say that they had Monica Lewinsky in their office looking for a job. This too is cruel. Firms have feared that her presence might prove disruptive to the work environment and that clients might not wish to work with her. This is overkill; they don’t need to protect Bill or Hillary Clinton. My feeling is, how long would the initial awkwardness last if the management grew a length of spine and laid down the law about their confidence in her skills and expertise? Not long, in my humble opinion.
I don’t care if Monica is only a “privileged white Jewish girl” living off her daddies’ (father and stepfather) money. And I don’t buy the canard that she was a spy for the Mossad, or that marriage is her only refuge. Monica Lewinsky deserves to be left alone, and she deserves a career–like any other woman–as befits her competence, training and skills. She needs to be important for the right reasons, to be a star in her own department, to be challenged and productive in doing the best job possible. Isn’t that what women all over fought for and are still fighting for: to be of use, and to have agency over their own destinies? I cannot believe that this blip in American history is all that Monica Lewinsky is really worth.