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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.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 333626

Reported Deaths: 3843
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin700691145
Ramsey29459521
Dakota23564198
Anoka23541236
Washington14864125
Stearns14564125
St. Louis9549121
Scott896460
Wright847548
Olmsted714637
Sherburne618746
Clay529960
Carver509715
Kandiyohi440828
Rice432338
Blue Earth431217
Crow Wing383339
Otter Tail338925
Chisago334516
Benton322753
Nobles316032
Winona297832
Douglas283040
Mower274823
Polk271527
Morrison246731
McLeod233721
Lyon232812
Beltrami230718
Goodhue222932
Becker221521
Steele21038
Itasca206324
Isanti203917
Carlton201417
Todd190314
Nicollet172126
Mille Lacs164632
Freeborn16227
Le Sueur157012
Brown156115
Cass153511
Pine14498
Meeker144812
Waseca143411
Roseau13035
Martin124721
Hubbard119729
Wabasha11301
Redwood104620
Chippewa9808
Renville95530
Cottonwood9454
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Watonwan8944
Wadena8637
Sibley8404
Rock8249
Houston8004
Aitkin79930
Fillmore7690
Pipestone76518
Pennington7058
Yellow Medicine69612
Kanabec68614
Swift63610
Murray6124
Faribault6093
Pope5721
Clearwater55410
Marshall5459
Stevens5403
Jackson5321
Lake4518
Koochiching4216
Wilkin4175
Lac qui Parle4124
Lincoln3811
Unassigned38159
Norman3718
Big Stone3392
Mahnomen3225
Grant2986
Kittson2518
Red Lake2303
Traverse1531
Lake of the Woods1071
Cook800

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 237371

Reported Deaths: 2571
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk34873347
Linn14787169
Scott1184692
Black Hawk11288147
Woodbury10763137
Johnson985939
Dubuque947999
Story701924
Pottawattamie682474
Dallas661260
Sioux383829
Webster378339
Cerro Gordo373252
Marshall360950
Clinton345645
Buena Vista316614
Muscatine305172
Des Moines300623
Warren294115
Plymouth287044
Wapello265072
Jones237118
Jasper231546
Lee228719
Marion211922
Carroll204325
Bremer202713
Henry19367
Crawford183116
Benton175423
Tama157442
Jackson151117
Washington150216
Delaware147621
Dickinson145812
Boone144912
Mahaska133928
Wright13107
Clay12505
Buchanan123410
Hardin122812
Hamilton119514
Page11925
Kossuth11768
Clayton115510
Cedar114614
Harrison113432
Floyd111921
Mills11129
Calhoun10987
Fayette109812
Lyon10769
Butler10748
Winneshiek105513
Poweshiek103714
Iowa101414
Cherokee9674
Winnebago96325
Chickasaw9195
Hancock9138
Sac9068
Louisa90122
Grundy89514
Allamakee88413
Cass84725
Union8437
Mitchell8429
Appanoose81613
Humboldt8125
Shelby80511
Emmet79026
Guthrie78315
Franklin76421
Jefferson7635
Madison7265
Unassigned7090
Palo Alto6744
Keokuk6567
Pocahontas6024
Howard5859
Ida54915
Osceola5461
Greene5422
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Clarke5064
Davis4839
Taylor4833
Monona4567
Adair4539
Monroe45113
Worth3881
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Van Buren3815
Decatur3410
Lucas3416
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Ringgold2432
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