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.

Confirmed Cases: 87807

Reported Deaths: 2002
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin25454917
Ramsey10349316
Dakota6995125
Anoka5596132
Stearns367023
Washington349255
Scott236632
Olmsted225327
Nobles192016
Blue Earth15566
Wright14937
Carver13197
Rice12908
St. Louis128229
Mower12614
Clay121340
Sherburne106313
Kandiyohi9112
Winona82818
Lyon6344
Steele5132
Freeborn5043
Nicollet49516
Watonwan4954
Benton4923
Todd4722
Le Sueur4413
McLeod4382
Waseca4228
Chisago4211
Crow Wing41018
Otter Tail3734
Beltrami3654
Goodhue3219
Martin2909
Itasca26413
Polk2624
Becker2372
Pine2360
Isanti2340
Carlton2311
Douglas2291
Cottonwood2140
Pipestone2089
Morrison1901
Dodge1880
Chippewa1851
Sibley1693
Meeker1662
Wabasha1660
Unassigned16552
Brown1642
Murray1492
Rock1450
Yellow Medicine1442
Mille Lacs1363
Faribault1290
Jackson1251
Cass1233
Renville1206
Roseau1090
Pennington1081
Fillmore1050
Houston1040
Swift1041
Kanabec1008
Koochiching1003
Lincoln950
Redwood930
Stevens901
Pope820
Hubbard710
Aitkin691
Big Stone660
Wadena610
Grant574
Wilkin553
Norman510
Lake480
Marshall481
Mahnomen451
Lac qui Parle410
Red Lake370
Traverse290
Clearwater240
Lake of the Woods201
Kittson130
Cook60

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 78552

Reported Deaths: 1255
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk15133256
Johnson496227
Woodbury486561
Black Hawk431686
Linn3722105
Story326317
Scott271227
Dubuque266140
Dallas265338
Pottawattamie195137
Buena Vista193312
Marshall175634
Sioux12753
Wapello124357
Webster118414
Muscatine105452
Clinton104618
Plymouth100120
Cerro Gordo98621
Crawford9804
Warren9226
Jasper74232
Des Moines7247
Marion7014
Tama68531
Carroll6275
Henry5974
Lee5857
Wright5571
Dickinson4756
Bremer4597
Boone4557
Washington42711
Louisa41915
Franklin33117
Mahaska32619
Delaware3183
Hamilton3143
Jackson2923
Floyd2913
Winneshiek2835
Benton2781
Clay2773
Hardin2731
Winnebago26211
Butler2572
Clarke2533
Emmet24810
Shelby2411
Jones2393
Allamakee2375
Poweshiek2368
Lyon2323
Buchanan2291
Clayton2273
Cedar2171
Guthrie2115
Kossuth2090
Chickasaw2030
Grundy2002
Madison1992
Sac1980
Cherokee1792
Howard1795
Iowa1791
Fayette1781
Mitchell1750
Hancock1712
Harrison1692
Humboldt1693
Calhoun1672
Mills1621
Palo Alto1560
Pocahontas1502
Monroe14410
Page1410
Lucas1386
Jefferson1321
Cass1282
Monona1281
Osceola1210
Appanoose1193
Taylor1191
Union1193
Davis1134
Van Buren1081
Worth1000
Keokuk891
Montgomery855
Ida840
Greene820
Fremont790
Wayne792
Adair621
Decatur580
Audubon551
Ringgold412
Adams270
Unassigned150
Rochester
Few Clouds
58° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 58°
Mason City
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 59°
Albert Lea
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 61°
Austin
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 59°
Charles City
Clear
57° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 57°
Warmer Weather Ahead
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Saturday Weather

Image

What are the benefits of bringing football back to Minnesota this fall?

Image

Candlelight vigil for Prisoners of War

Image

MC Masters National Championship Regatta

Image

Early voting begins in Minnesota

Image

Dooley's Pub closes due to health hazards

Image

Area athletic directors prep to welcome back sports

Image

Early voting begins in Minnesota

Image

TikTok Ban to Begin This Weekend

Image

Sara's Evening Forecast - Friday

Community Events