The Best Monica Lewinsky Columns From Around the Web

We read everything on the resurfacing of Monica Lewinsky so you don’t have to — or maybe just because it’s fascinating.

National Journal
Lucia Graves
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Lucia Graves
May 8, 2014, 12:46 p.m.

Jimmy Fal­lon and so many oth­ers have joked about how Mon­ica Lew­in­sky’s Van­ity Fair piece is old news. Quoth he: “In the es­say she ac­tu­ally says, ‘It’s time to burn the blue dress, bury the ber­et, and move on.’ And Amer­ic­ans said, ‘Yeah, we did 15 years ago!’ ” There is vir­tu­ally noth­ing new in the piece — ex­cept per­spect­ive. And a great deal of that can be found in the piece it­self, which is now avail­able for sub­scribers and will hit news­stands May 13. But even more per­spect­ive (very smart, in­ter­est­ing stuff!) can be found on the In­ter­net, where the pun­dits have ana­lyzed it in­to a schol­arly pur­ee.

Fal­lon’s joke makes for a good punch line, but he’s wrong: Amer­ica has def­in­itely not bur­ied the ber­et, least of all some of our fa­vor­ite fem­in­ists. The best points from around the Web are be­low.

Aman­da Hess in Slate on how Maur­een Dowd painted Lew­in­sky as a crazy bimbo — and won a Pulitzer for it. “It didn’t take long for Dowd to buckle un­der the power of the Clin­ton nar­rat­ive and join the pile-on her­self. By Feb­ru­ary, she was call­ing Lew­in­sky ‘a ditsy, pred­at­ory White House in­tern who might have lied un­der oath for a job at Re­vlon’ and ‘the girl who was too tubby to be in the high school in crowd.’ At first, Dowd at­temp­ted to pass this nas­ti­ness off as a sly, satir­ic­al com­ment­ary on the ca­ri­ca­ture of Lew­in­sky that the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion had painted in the press. But soon, the ar­ti­fice dis­ap­peared, and Dowd de­voted her column to ar­guing that, come to think of it, Lew­in­sky was both nutty and slutty.”

Re­becca Tra­ister in The New Re­pub­lic on how Hil­lary and Mon­ica are in this to­geth­er.This Van­ity Fair story is not Lew­in­sky’s first at­tempt at re­in­ven­tion. In the years after the af­fair, she de­signed hand­bags, got that gradu­ate de­gree, shilled for Jenny Craig. Clin­ton, mean­while, has be­come a sen­at­or, a sec­ret­ary of state, a pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate, a wo­men’s lead­er; she’s cut her hair and changed her ward­robe. The reas­on that, no mat­ter what they do, neither wo­man can ever shake this old story is that it is nev­er-end­ing; and it is im­port­ant. It is the story of wo­men in the United States: mar­gin­al­ized, sexu­al­ized, and pit­ted against each oth­er since time began in an at­tempt to keep them at the fringes of a power struc­ture and very far from the top of it.”

Molly Lam­bert in Grant­land re­calls what it was like read­ing about Lew­in­sky as a fem­in­ist teen­ager and puts it all in con­text. I was 15 when the Lew­in­sky scan­dal broke, and it blew my mind, so to speak, on every pos­sible level. It was the ex­act age at which I nev­er wanted to talk to my par­ents about any­thing re­motely sexu­al, and yet there we were, watch­ing news an­chors de­bate wheth­er or­al sex should be judged dif­fer­ently from va­gin­al pen­et­ra­tion. Everything about the scan­dal seemed gray-shaded: wheth­er it was a pro­sec­ut­able of­fense, how and why Hil­lary Clin­ton would stay with Bill af­ter­ward, what it must have been like for the teen­age Chelsea to be so em­bar­rassed by her dad in front of the whole world. I was a ‘90s child with an ideal­ist fem­in­ist concept of gender roles, but the pres­id­ent was en­act­ing a scen­ario I some­how be­lieved had gone out with JFK.”

Dave Wei­gel in Slate com­plains Lew­in­sky’s aired this all be­fore. The ‘si­lence-break­ing’ head­lines made no sense. What si­lence was be­ing broken? The Huff­ing­ton Post notes that Lew­in­sky ‘is open­ing up about her af­fair with former Pres­id­ent Bill Clin­ton for the first time in years,’ but that’s not the same as break­ing ‘si­lence’….”

Jonath­an Chait in New York Magazine on the Lynn Cheney con­spir­acy the­ory. “Lynn Cheney has a the­ory about why Mon­ica Lew­in­sky wrote a long Van­ity Fair es­say about her ex­per­i­ence with Bill Clin­ton: It’s be­cause the Clin­tons wanted it. Cheney ex­plains her sus­pi­cions. ‘I really won­der if this isn’t an ef­fort on the Clin­tons’ part to get that story out of the way,’ Cheney, an­nounced on an in­ter­view on Fox News. ‘Would Van­ity Fair pub­lish any­thing about Mon­ica Lew­in­sky that Hil­lary Clin­ton didn’t want in Van­ity Fair?’ There may be a couple of holes in this the­ory. The first is that, while it does ac­count for the Clin­ton’s mo­tiv­a­tions, it fails to ex­plain the par­ti­cip­a­tion of Lew­in­sky her­self, who is the au­thor of the art­icle in ques­tion, and may not be in the mind-set of ‘I really owe Bill Clin­ton a fa­vor.’”

And our own Emma Roller in Na­tion­al Journ­al on how fem­in­ists failed Lew­in­sky. “What Lew­in­sky’s es­say does well is re­mind us of how shame­fully so-called fem­in­ists failed her when she needed them most…. It’s only more up­set­ting that, 16 years later, the same fem­in­ist lead­ers who were so eager to as­sas­sin­ate Lew­in­sky’s char­ac­ter now con­sider them­selves ar­dent de­fend­ers against sex­ism — proud war­ri­ors who stand Ready for Hil­lary.”

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