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.”