Many years ago I was one of the many defending Bill Clinton’s relationship with Monica Lewinsky. I remember being a little creeped out by the age difference but overall believed she was of consenting age and a willing participant. I also remember feeling sorry for her in the aftermath. She was the victim of a major smear campaign, one I attributed to both Bill and Hillary Clinton. And no, there was no part of me that blamed Hillary for staying, even if it was for a future political career.
Politics is a dirty business and we were still mad at Hillary for declaring she was not some woman standing by her man and baking cookies. So it wasn’t a stretch to believe that she looked at Bill and saw opportunity and not love.
But anyway, back to poor Monica, the only one in that whole situation who paid a heavy price for her involvement with a sitting president, the same sitting president who had been accused of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment. The same sitting president who ultimately settled out of court on the sexual harassment case.
I have a daughter who is now away at college. She is looking at internships. I look at my daughter and think back to a young Monica Lewinsky. I cringe at the thought of any man in his 40’s, a sitting president no less, engaging my daughter in a sexual relationship. Yes, she’s of consenting age, but what man in his 40’s, what man who has reached the highest office in the land, looks at a young intern and sees a candidate for romance. And that’s being generous. He used her and later allowed her to be trashed while he waved his finger and said, “I did not have…” well we all know the rest.
Sadly it took watching my daughter grow up to really feel the impact of Bill Clinton’s actions regarding Monica Lewinsky. Monica was one of his supposed consensual relationships though I don’t know of any company in this country that wouldn’t consider that scenario a major human resources disaster. CEOs are not supposed to have sexual relationships with their interns. Do we really need a rulebook to know that’s gross and wildly inappropriate?
We, as a country, are also to blame. We trashed a young girl, or at least, many of us watched, as she became a punch line on late night. She was publicly ridiculed in the media. Meanwhile Bill and Hillary went on with their political careers. They cashed in while portraying themselves as middle class and champions of women.
Monica wasn’t the only one we watched get destroyed. Paula Jones, the only one of his alleged victims to successfully beat Bill Clinton, was also dragged through the mud. Remember the jokes about her? The jokes about her nose or insinuations that she wasn’t attractive enough to be sexually harassed?
But that’s what we did to women in this country. WE did that. WE allowed that to happen and WE allowed it to continue to this day. Look at all the memes that still circulate about Monica Lewinsky. Then gasp when old tape magically appears in which Donald Trump is heard making crude remarks.
Bill Clinton has lied every single time he was confronted with one of his transgressions whether we want to believe they were consensual or not. His actions towards women are predatory. If he wasn’t Bill Clinton we’d be calling him a sexual predator. Instead we find reasons to blame his victims, to not believe them.
Let’s not forget how many victims tried to seek justice for years when it came to Bill Cosby. Let’s not forget how his power, fame, and money prevented publicity and justice for many years, creating opportunities for him to victimize again and again. Then let’s think about what it must be like to be a victim of the president of the United States.
If you can’t get justice when it comes to a sitcom star, imagine trying to get justice when it’s the president.
So while everyone is so outraged about Donald Trump’s comments on a red carpet, a decade ago, maybe it is time to share some of that outrage. No. Bill Clinton isn’t running, but his own wife has said we need to believe victims when they come forward. Apparently she means just not her husband’s victims. And if you don’t want to believe that Monica Lewinsky was a victim, then look at your own daughter, your sister, any woman you care about, and ask yourself if you would want her to be treated the way Monica was treated, not just by Bill and Hillary, but by us.