The Lewinsky-Clinton episode, maybe 20 years old, but the scandalous affair and its equally public aftermath is still fresh in our memories. So, Monica Lewinsky‘s Op-Ed in Vanity Fair has raised a debate among people on whether she is right in seeking an apology from Bill Clinton.

In the 90s the affair was sold to us as the White House embarrassment, since a 22-year-old “seductive intern” managed to “lure” the then US President into an affair, right under the watchful gaze of his aides. It put both Clinton’s presidency and marriage in jeopardy. It shifted focus from political issues ravaging the States then, to stained dresses. This is the gist of what I remember from reading about the infamous affair back in the 90s, when I was just an impressionable teen, too young to ask questions on power dynamics in play.

Now, 20-years later though, we are all giving it a second thought as to how Lewinsky was demonised to preserve the honour of the US Presidency. How conveniently did we overlook that whatever happened between the two was mutual? That Clinton was at fault of misusing his position and his wife’s trust in him. However, even today, many people see Lewinsky as the manipulative another woman, who is playing the victim card for the sake of money and fame.

If only they could read their own comments from a neutral gaze, they would know that no amount of money or fame can compensate for the shaming and humiliation Lewinsky has and continues to face even today.

SOME TAKEAWAYS

  • In her latest article for a magazine, Monica Lewinsky has said that Bill Clinton should want to apologize for what happened to her.
  • Lewinsky is still bearing social, mental and emotional consequences of the infamous 1998 scandal, while Clinton has moved on.
  • Why must the “other” woman carry the burden of shame and guilt singularly?
  •  As a society, we wronged her by readily accepting that Clinton was a victim of her charms.

In her essay, Lewinsky addresses Bill Clinton’s recent remarks that she didn’t deserve a personal apology from him. She says, “What feels more important to me than whether I am owed or deserving of a personal apology is my belief that Bill Clinton should want to apologize. I’m less disappointed by him, and more disappointed for him. He would be a better man for it . . . and we, in turn, a better society.” This statement has not gone down well with Clinton family supporters, who feel that Lewinsky indeed doesn’t deserve an apology.

She got into the relationship knowingly. She knew he was married. Also, she wasn’t some clueless teen who was coerced into a sexual relationship against her wishes. What does she want an apology for?

Lewinsky wants an apology because Bill made her into a baddie in their mutual relationship. His well-wishers and protectors of the Presidential offices forced the burden of shame and guilt completely on her. Clinton has moved on and he still enjoys considerable support and following. Lewinsky, on the other hand, will sadly always be remembered as “that woman”. The tag will not leave her side in this lifetime and will be her infamous legacy forever. Yes, she did get into a consensual relationship with a married man. But why must the moral burden of the  affair solely lie with her? But this is how we treat “other” women in our society, and it is the change in this mindset we need as a society, that Lewinsky is talking about.

The demonisation of the other woman, gives misogyny a free pass in order to preserve the sanctity of the institution of marriage.

If Lewinsky feels like a victim today, then she is not wrong. If this makes us uncomfortable or outrages our morality, then it is a question mark on our sensibilities. As a society, we wronged her by readily accepting that Clinton was a victim of her charms. And the poor man had no other option than to give in to the temptation. When will we stop shielding men from owning up to their mistakes? When will we begin questioning the abuse of power and gender dynamics to save someone’s social standing? It is about time we pay attention to the destruction such tweaked and twisted narratives leave in their wake.

To do that, first we need to accept that Lewinsky is a victim of our hypocritical social standards. And that not just Clinton, but all those who readily accepted her portrayal as a seductive vixen should feel like apologizing to her.

Photo Source: Salon

Also Read : Why Should A Woman Bear The Shame Of Her Man’s Actions?

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are the author’s own.

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