By: Bebe La Grua
One quick Google search for “Monica Lewinsky” and up pops the obligatory articles detailing the Clinton/Lewinsky affair that oh-so-scandalized the country and forever stained the name of blue dresses and cigars everywhere (if it doesn’t make sense, trust me, Google it). However, recently Lewinsky has been making headlines for the rumored 12-million dollar book deal that would expose details of her affair with the president, including love letters written to and from the president at the time of the affair. That’s not that interesting, though. You know what’s a lot more interesting to write about? The fact that Monica Lewinsky is FAT and SINGLE and LIVING AT HOME. Oh, the horror!
At least, that’s what news sources around the world have been focusing on. Let’s take a look at a few of the headlines surrounding the tell-all book.
- “Monica Lewinsky living with Mother, Still Struggling with Weight.”
- “’She needs the money’: Why Monica Lewinsky is writing tell-all book as friends reveal her shattered dreams of ‘losing 30 pounds, moving to the country and having a family”
- PICTURE EXCLUSIVE: Monica Lewinsky – single, living with her mother and still struggling with her weight – but ‘set to make $12m with a tell-all book about her affair with Clinton’
Monica Lewinsky’s book focuses on the only card she’s been dealt to play by society: her affair with President Clinton. So why are media outlets focusing on Lewinsky’s weight, appearance, and romantic availability?
It is in large part because she is a woman, but more importantly it is that she is a woman who has been reduced to a sex act. From the moment the affair broke news, Monica Lewinsky became the woman who gave Bill Clinton a blowjob—and she has never been given a chance to move beyond this reputation after the the slut shaming she endured by the media at the time of the affair. Everything else about Lewinsky, including that she graduated with a master’s degree in social psychology from the London School of Economics, has been overshadowed by a private indiscretion committed in her youth with one of the most powerful men in the world.
In Richard Cohen’s 2007 article for The Washington Post, Cohen wrote, “It would be nice, too, and fair, also, if Lewinsky were treated by the media as it would treat a man. What’s astounding is the level of sexism applied to her, as if the wave of the women’s movement broke over a new generation of journalists and not a drop fell on any of them. Where, pray tell, is the man who is remembered just for sex? Where is the guy who is the constant joke for something he did in his sexually wanton youth?”
Slut shaming has not faded from our public dialogue. In fact, the recent break-up between Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, which apparently people give a shit about, has shown that our society relishes in scrutinizing and demonizing the actions of our female population.
Nico Lang from The Huffington Post wrote in September, “For young women, the culture of slut shaming that the Kristen Stewart scandal represents won’t go away. I might not be concerned for K-Stew, but I am concerned for all the young women today who are tuned into this scandal, ones who are learning that it’s not okay to screw up, ever. Chris Brown can publicly beat the hell out of his girlfriend but still be played on the radio and win Grammys. However, if you ever cheat on your boyfriend, your life is over and no one will ever want to be associated with you. Almost no one will blame the much-older guy you cheated with, and it might actually make him more famous and help his career. Few will care that he was your boss and in a position of authority or that he may have taken advantage of your youth and relative inexperience. Everything is your fault, and your life will be threatened over it.”
My problem with the media coverage surrounding Monica Lewinsky’s new book represents my problem with the way media degrades women by parsing them down to their appearance and availability, and by demeaning them sexually. The objectification and slut shaming of women in the media represents the degradation women experience by our society and sends the message to all women that their romantic and sexual lives are up for judgment and scrutiny. A woman’s sex life becomes public domain instead of a private affair, and everyone has an opinion. And that is some bullshit.