It's a story we constantly hear: intern has an affair with older, powerful boss. Affair gets discovered, woman gets vilified and has her life ruined while the man gets a mere slap on the wrist. It's written about in books and songs now but in the mid-nineties, this played out for all the world to see. Monica Lewinsky was just 22-years-old when she worked as an unpaid White House intern in summer 1995 when her affair with Bill Clinton, the then-49-year-old president of the United States, began.
To put it simply, much of her young adult life was ruined. Lewinsky was investigated in 1998 by an independent prosecutor, Ken Starr who, according to a first-person interview with Vanity Fair, "[was] accompanied by a group of F.B.I. agents [that] had hustled me into a hotel room near the Pentagon and informed me that unless I cooperated with them I could face 27 years in prison."
The Starr investigation as it was known, turned her "24-year-old life into a living hell." The young woman only in her early twenties had her life terrorised, her life altered by a team who were determined to use her to get to Clinton.
She did what so many of us do when we're young; she fell in love and made a mistake. It was a big one. It hurt many people and it's no excuse but in layman terms, that's what it was. Sure, Clinton was investigated, called out. But today, he is still lauded as a charismatic public figure, despite his many mistakes which included lying to the public – and everyone else in his family – and denying a long-term affair and involvement with an intern. For Lewinsky, she is still synonymous with a blue dress – even Beyonce has sung about it, poking fun at all that her life resembled. She was outed and ostracised back then – and it's still not over for her.
Even google her name; you won't find one article without a tie to the public scandal. Google Clinton and you'll see articles about the latest public event he attended. Yet this was something that involved more than a woman who was young and foolish; it also included a man who was old enough to know better – and the most powerful man in the world at the time – at over two decades her senior. But he's rarely spoken of in that way. She was gaslighted. He was not.
"At the age of 22, I fell in love with my boss. At the age of 24, I learned the devastating consequences."
And today, the now 45-year-old was forced to walk off stage during a live interview during short during a conference in Jerusalem after being asked an "off limits" question about the former President, saying later that the interviewer disregarded "clear parameters" for their discussion.
Lewinsky was being interviewed by Israeli TV news anchor Yonit Levi of Hadashot News when Levi began by asking Lewinsky whether she still expected a personal, private apology from Clinton and took to Twitter to explain why:
so here’s what happened… pic.twitter.com/Y7gLs3SDLF
— Monica Lewinsky (@MonicaLewinsky) September 3, 2018
"I left because it is more important than ever for women to stand up for themselves and not allow others to control their narrative."
This is a woman who is taking control, after her narrative was defined by others for decades. Because what does it say about us, still as a society, in the era of #MeToo, when almost 25 years after a painful, public humiliation, a woman is reduced to walking off stage to avoid feeling shamed? That she made a mistake is without question, but that she's still getting held to ransom while Clinton's equal part happily gets glossed over by the media at large is so very, very wrong.
Monica Lewinsky deserves so much better.