Monica Lewinsky was a 22-year-old White House intern when she began an affair with President Bill Clinton in 1995. This affair, and the subsequent impeachment proceedings against President Clinton, brought Lewinsky into the national spotlight and made her the subject of intense public scrutiny and criticism.
Over 20 years later, Lewinsky remains a controversial public figure, and she continues to face derision and hatred from certain segments of society. But why exactly do some people harbor such animosity towards Lewinsky, even all these years later? This article will explore the potential reasons behind the ongoing vilification of Monica Lewinsky.
The Affair with Clinton
One of the foremost reasons why Monica Lewinsky faced such intense public backlash was the fact that she had an affair with a married man – and not just any married man, but the sitting President of the United States.
Lewinsky’s Role as “The Other Woman”
By engaging in sexual relations with the President, Lewinsky took on the role of “the other woman” and violated societal norms about fidelity and marriage vows.
This elicited moral outrage from those who felt she seduced a married man and enabled him to cheat on his wife. Lewinsky was seen as the temptress who led the President astray, rather than Clinton bearing responsibility.
Power Imbalance with Clinton
Beyond disapproval over her being “the other woman”, there was additional scrutiny over the immense power imbalance between Clinton and Lewinsky. He was 27 years her senior and held the highest office in the nation.
She was a young intern at the start of her career. This power dynamic raised serious questions about consent and appropriate boundaries between superiors and subordinates. Many felt Clinton took advantage of Lewinsky’s naivety and awe of the Presidency.
Staining Clinton’s Legacy
The affair also tarnished the legacy of the Clinton Presidency. It shifted attention away from his policy agenda and recalibrated public perception of his moral character.
For those who supported Clinton and his policies, Lewinsky’s role in the scandal made her an easy scapegoat for sullying his image in the history books.
Relentless Media Attention and Public Shaming
The wall-to-wall media coverage of the scandal subjected Lewinsky to a relentless campaign of public shaming and humiliation:
Lewinsky became a fixture of tabloid newspapers and magazines, which amplified raunchy details about the affair. This approach reduced Lewinsky to a sexual object and played into tropes about promiscuous young women.
Late Night Jokes
Lewinsky also became the frequent butt of late night TV jokes, with hosts using the scandal as fodder for crass monologues and sketches that portrayed her as foolish and trashy. This type of jokey coverage made light of the immense power differential in the relationship.
Endless discussion of Lewinsky’s appearance, demeanor, and sexual history attempted to dissect her character and motivations. This amplified public feelings of familiarity with a young woman they had never met.
Lewinsky as Punchline
Overall, the media coverage framed Lewinsky primarily as a punchline, rather than a full person. She became a stand-in for public embarrassment over the affair.
Double Standards and Hypocrisy
Much of the vitriol directed at Lewinsky exposed the public’s hypocrisies around gender, sex, and consequences:
Promiscuous Women vs. Promiscuous Men
While Lewinsky’s promiscuity was condemned, male promiscuity is often condoned, or even applauded. The scandal revealed a persisting sexual double standard.
Consequences Fall on Women
Though Clinton participated equally in the affair, the bulk of public backlash fell upon Lewinsky. This reflected the tendency to blame the “other woman” when men in power Transgress marital vows.
Minimizing Male Abuses of Power
Focus remained fixed on Lewinsky’s behavior rather than broader issues like Clinton’s inappropriate leverage over a subordinate. This minimized male abuses of authority.
Public Servants Held to Different Standards
Overall, Clinton escaped the same extent of condemnation, demonstrating how public servants, especially men, are sometimes held to looser moral standards.
Key Reasons for Lewinsky’s Ongoing Vilification
While the intense scrutiny of Lewinsky may have faded from the headlines, she continues to stir animosity among certain groups for a few key reasons:
Reminder of Public Shame
Lewinsky’s notoriety means she is a walking reminder of a scandal that brought embarrassment upon the nation. For some, it is easier to project anger onto Lewinsky rather than reflect on the public’s own obsessive media consumption.
Threat to Political Legacies
Within political spheres, Lewinsky remains a threat to Clinton’s legacy and a distraction from his policies. Vilifying her is an attempt to neutralize her impact.
Lingering Sexual Morality
Lewinsky’s story also conjures up America’s lingering puritanical views on female sexuality. She is easy to turn into a morality tale for those with rigid views on promiscuity.
Misplaced Sexist Attitudes
For misogynists and chauvinists, Lewinsky serves as an outlet for their own hostile sexism and desire to control female sexuality.
The Toll of Public Shaming
While many only know Lewinsky through the scandal, it is important to recognize the immense personal toll that the public shaming took on her:
- Plunged into depression and felt suicidal
- Struggled for years to launch a career because of notoriety
- Still experiences trauma from the media harassment
- Has had relationships endangered once partners learn of her past
- Has had to move abroad to escape the stigma
This is vital context frequently missing from dismissive portrayals of Lewinsky that reduce her to a caricature or one-dimensional “villain” without humanity. She was just 22 when the affair began, and the cruel mistreatment she faced continues to impact her decades later.
The depth of vitriol directed towards Monica Lewinsky over her affair with President Clinton exposed troubling undercurrents in American society, from hypocritical sexual standards to exploitational media coverage.
While Lewinsky participated willingly in the affair, the many forces that condemned her to the role of national scapegoat were far more complex. Recognizing these nuances can help achieve a more thoughtful understanding of Lewinsky’s role in the scandal, separate from the media’s sexist and sensationalist framing of her.
Lewinsky’s experience also serves as a cautionary tale of the destructive power public shaming holds over people’s lives. Over 20 years since the scandal broke, there is value in asking whether such cruel censure of Lewinsky was truly justified, or whether she became an easy target for public moralizing and misogyny. Perhaps the question should not be “Why do people hate Monica Lewinsky?”, but rather “Why was Monica Lewinsky so hated?”
FAQs about Why People Hate Monica Lewinsky
What was Monica Lewinsky’s job at the White House?
Monica Lewinsky was a 22-year-old White House intern when she began an affair with President Bill Clinton in 1995. Prior to the internship, she had worked in the White House Office of Legislative Affairs.
How did the Monica Lewinsky scandal come out publicly?
Lewinsky confided details of the affair to colleague Linda Tripp, who secretly recorded their conversations and turned the tapes over to Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr in January 1998 as part of his investigation into Clinton. This triggered the scandal becoming public.
What happened to Monica Lewinsky after the scandal?
Lewinsky initially retreated from public life following intense media scrutiny. She later completed a master’s degree in psychology in London and briefly pursued a handbag line. Lewinsky gave her first public speech on the scandal in 2015 and has since become an outspoken anti-bullying advocate.
What happened to Bill Clinton after the Monica Lewinsky scandal?
Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives in 1998 for lying under oath about his affair with Lewinsky, but he was subsequently acquitted in the Senate trial. Clinton remained in office for the rest of his term despite the scandal. His public approval rating actually increased in its immediate aftermath.
Why didn’t Bill Clinton get in more trouble over the scandal?
While Clinton did face impeachment, he elicited more public sympathy and leniency compared to the treatment of Lewinsky. Factors included Clinton’s charisma, the economic prosperity of the era, and misogynistic double standards that placed more blame on Lewinsky.