Monica Lewinsky Writes About Consent, Isolation, And The #MeToo Movement For Vanity Fair

"I know one thing for certain: part of what has allowed me to shift is knowing I’m not alone anymore. And for that I am grateful."

This year marks 20 years since the impeachment hearings for President Bill Clinton began, and, in honor of the occasion, Monica Lewinsky wrote an essay for Vanity Fair in which she reflected on her experience and sounded off on how the #MeToo movement has changed her perspective on events that shaped her own life.

While a characteristic of the #MeToo movement is a level of compassion for women who have endured assault or abuse, Lewinsky points out that although she had supportive family, friends, and well-wishers in the 1990s, her experience was largely lonely and isolating. After one leader of the #MeToo movement recently told her, "I'm so sorry you were so alone," Lewinsky writes, "Those seven words undid me."

"That I had made mistakes, on that we can all agree," she adds. "But swimming in that sea of Aloneness was terrifying."

Years later, Lewinsky seems heartened by the strides we've made as a society — namely that the loneliness that negatively impacted her two decades ago is in direct contradiction with the #MeToo movement and what it stands for. "Isolation is such a powerful tool to the subjugator. And yet I don't believe I would have felt so isolated had it all happened today," she writes. "One of the most inspiring aspects of this newly energized movement is the sheer number of women who have spoken up in support of one another. And the volume in numbers has translated into volume of public voice."

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"Virtually anyone can share her or his #MeToo story and be instantly welcomed into a tribe," she adds, noting that those coming forward now have a power that was reserved for "the president and his minions, the Congress, the prosecutors, and the press" back in 1998.

However, though the #MeToo movement has left Lewinsky in "awe of the sheer courage of the women who have stood up and begun to confront entrenched beliefs and institutions," it has also forced her to examine her own circumstances in a different light.

"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.)" she writes. "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." 

As she explains it in her most recent Vanity Fair essay, "Given my PTSD and my understanding of trauma, it's very likely that my thinking would not necessarily be changing at this time had it not been for the #MeToo movement—not only because of the new lens it has provided but also because of how it has offered new avenues toward the safety that comes from solidarity."

Though Lewinsky's re-evaluation of her own experiences has been arduous, painful, and is not yet complete, it has also brought her a degree of solace that wouldn't exist without #MeToo. "I know one thing for certain: part of what has allowed me to shift is knowing I'm not alone anymore. And for that I am grateful," she concludes. "I—we—owe a huge debt of gratitude to the #MeToo and Time's Up heroines. 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."

Not surprisingly, many people online have praised Lewinsky not only for throwing her weight behind the #MeToo movement, but also for being so candid and eloquent when writing about her own experiences. Check out some powerful reactions to Lewinsky's essay below:

Cover image via Shutterstock / Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock.com.

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