What Monica Lewinsky means for solidarity after #MeToo

There are perhaps few women with less in common than Monica Lewinsky and Mona Charen.However, each woman, in h...

Posted: Feb 27, 2018 9:42 AM
Updated: Feb 27, 2018 9:42 AM

There are perhaps few women with less in common than Monica Lewinsky and Mona Charen.

However, each woman, in her own way and with her own story, raises provocative questions about agency and inclusion in the growing #metoo movement. Their willingness to own the consequences of their choices and invite other women to do the same earn them a rightful place in the current feminist movement, even if each woman might reject it.

In an achingly honest and intelligent recent essay for Vanity Fair, Monica Lewinsky reflects on her life and the changes in American society since the 1998 investigation led by Ken Starr publicly disclosed her affair with then-President Bill Clinton.

The investigation led to Clinton's impeachment and later acquittal for lying under oath about his relationship with Lewinsky, among other things. Since then, the Clintons have enjoyed varying degrees of success on the global stage. Meanwhile, Lewinsky has spent the past 20 years privately unpacking the consequences of her choices.

She is reckoning with her culpability in a situation that was, in her words, "littered with inappropriate abuse of authority, station and privilege. (Full stop)." She understands -- and wants others to understand, hence the essay -- that while her active participation in the relationship to Clinton separates her story from those of #MeToo victims who were harassed or assaulted without consent, she sees the connective tissue between their experiences and hers.

"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 with solidarity," Lewinsky says.

Lewinsky's essay attempts to color between the lines of the contrition expected of the "other woman" in an affair and the rightful acknowledgment that at the time of her relationship with Clinton, she had a "22-year-old's limited understanding of the consequences." But are the bright lines of the #MeToo movement -- which offers immediate solace for the victim and swift punishment for the perpetrator -- flexible enough to embrace a woman who was both a willing participant and political pawn? Is the movement ready to consider situations in which women walk in as agents of their sexual desire but walk out as victims of their own folly?

Charen raised the question of solidarity in the #MeToo movement at last weekend's Conservative Political Action Conference, known as CPAC, when she, a veteran conservative speechwriter and columnist, criticized the conspiracy of silence among conservative women.

"How can conservative women hope to have any credibility on the subject of sexual harassment or relations between the sexes when they excuse the behavior of President Trump?" Charen said. "And how can we participate in any conversation about sexual ethics when the Republican President and the Republican Party backed a man (Roy Moore) credibly accused of child molestation for the United States Senate?"

Charen didn't stop there. She criticized CPAC members for inviting and promoting guests with racist, sexist and anti-Semitic views. Charen was booed and jeered. She was also escorted from the event by guards, who feared for her safety after her remarks.

"Just hearing the words you know are true can serve as ballast, steadying your mind when so much seems unreal," Charen said in a subsequent New York Times op-ed.

Perhaps without realizing it, Charen opened the door for a new conversation among conservative women -- one in which they don't have to choose between free markets and the safety of their daughters.

On this point, Charen and her conservative sisters may find common ground with progressive champions in the #metoo movement. Instead of insisting on ideological purity, it's time we embrace true intersectionality -- not just of race and social class, but of life experience and the wisdom gained from it. Instead of blaming the 53% of white women who voted for President Trump, we should ask them why they think feminism failed them and what we can do collectively to improve it.

Solidarity doesn't mean agreeing about everything. But it's time we start agreeing on the right things. For one, we can agree to recruit and support political candidates for whom "homeland security" also includes preserving the sanctity and dignity of women's bodies and right to sexual self-determination.

The #MeToo movement must grow beyond the simplistic, call-and-response dance of accusation and punishment if it wants to be a lasting, cultural force that enables true gender equality. We are more than "me too," more than the sum of our differences. Our strength as women comes in our unity, of all of us.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

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Confirmed Cases: 16769

Reported Deaths: 803
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds110426
Madison77829
Lauderdale76569
Neshoba73945
Jones70933
Scott66312
Forrest60039
DeSoto59310
Rankin4639
Leake45512
Holmes44431
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Jackson31415
Attala31218
Yazoo2985
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Lincoln28131
Wayne2803
Monroe26925
Harrison2687
Lamar2525
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Pearl River21231
Pike20411
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Warren19910
Washington1998
Lee1978
Noxubee1956
Covington1832
Bolivar16911
Jasper1684
Clarke15619
Smith15611
Lafayette1564
Kemper15611
Chickasaw14314
Coahoma1324
Clay1254
Winston1241
Carroll11911
Marion1169
Claiborne1165
Yalobusha1116
Grenada1104
Lawrence1071
Simpson1050
Sunflower963
Tate931
Hancock9012
Marshall893
Union897
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Wilkinson859
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Tippah7611
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Humphreys647
Tunica583
Prentiss533
Choctaw522
Perry513
Pontotoc493
Jefferson421
Tishomingo360
Stone320
Quitman320
Tallahatchie311
Greene301
George302
Franklin292
Alcorn191
Benton140
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 19387

Reported Deaths: 676
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2341123
Jefferson1927105
Montgomery190544
Tuscaloosa85316
Marshall7149
Franklin5939
Lee56334
Shelby53619
Tallapoosa43566
Butler43121
Walker3973
Elmore38110
Chambers36326
Madison3594
Unassigned3144
Morgan3141
Baldwin2969
Dallas2963
Lowndes26912
Etowah26512
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Autauga2485
Coffee2401
Sumter2369
Houston2275
Pike2231
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Colbert1972
Hale19210
Russell1870
Barbour1831
Marengo1796
Lauderdale1752
Calhoun1693
Cullman1631
Wilcox1587
Choctaw15310
Clarke1492
St. Clair1372
Randolph1288
Dale1250
Marion12511
Talladega1215
Pickens1215
Limestone1100
Chilton1081
Greene955
Macon944
Winston920
Jackson863
Henry842
Covington831
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Escambia793
Bibb761
Washington746
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