In the #MeToo era Town and Country magazine uninvites Monica Lewinsky from event because Bill Clinton attends
By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS
The age of #MeToo is not enough to change the age of old views of sexism and abuse of power. History keeps repeating itself for former White House intern Monica Lewinsky as she yet again is at the receiving end of discrimination because of her past involvement with former President Clinton. On Tuesday, May 9, 2018, Lewinsky took to Twitter to announce she had been disinvited from an event on social change because Clinton would now be attending. Lewinsky tweeted about the incident but did not name the magazine, hosting the event, which is believed to be Town and Country and their philanthropy summit.
The affair and resulting scandal led Clinton to be only the second president impeached. Twenty years later the #MeToo movement has been outing sexual abuse and harassment from men in positions of power who abused it, then silenced these women or tarnished their credibility. It is shocking in this era for this type of preferential behaviors to still occur nevermind past an event on social change.
On Twitter Lewinsky wrote, "Please don't invite me to an event (esp one about social change) and — then after I've accepted — uninvite me because Bill Clinton then decided to attend/was invited. It's 2018. Emily Post would def not approve." Lewinsky then posted that it was a magazine that disinvited her, adding they offer to let her write an article in their publication. Lewinsky tweeted, "p.s. ... and definitely, please don't try to ameliorate the situation by insulting me with an offer of an article in your mag."
The tweet has gone viral, with the original tweet been retweeted over 4,500 times and liked over 27,000 times. The second post was retweeted over 400 times and liked nearly 5,000 times. The comments, however, have not all been supportive, with many taking her issue with her bringing up Emily Post's rules of etiquette considering her affair with Clinton. The bullying in itself is symptomatic of the era of social media but disregards the change in philosophy the #metoo movement has brought about.
In 1998, almost every time President Clinton was mentioned in the news so was Lewinsky then 24 years old. For over six months from the time Matt Drudge broke news of the Clinton-Lewinsky involvement until mid-August when the president finally admitted to the affair and apologized and then with the September release of the Starr Report, throughout the fall when House of Representatives voted to impeach Clinton for “high crimes and misdemeanors” perjury and obstruction of justice through to early 1999 when the Senate finally acquitted Clinton, one could not read or watch the news without Monica Lewinsky being discussed, analyzed, mocked and ridiculed. Lewinsky became involved with Clinton in November 1995, when she was a 22-year-old White House intern and the “encounters” and affair continued on into 1997. The relationship became public knowledge through the taped revelations of informant Linda Tripp in the midst of the Paula Jones sexual harassment case after Clinton had asked Lewinsky to lie in her deposition for the case about their involvement.
Twenty years later and the whole issue with the disinviting is reminiscent of the bullying in the news when the scandal broke. Whereas Lewinsky was not believed at first, Clinton retained high poll numbers as she was vilified. Even after Clinton admitted he lied to the American public, he escaped impeachment, while Lewinsky became late-night fodder. She escaped the public eye for years, re-emerging in 2014 as a Vanity Fair contributor, where she wrote about the scandal and subsequent bullying in the article entitled “Shame and Survival.” She has since worked as a writer and anti-bullying advocate focusing particularly on cyberbullying and online harassment because she calls herself “patient zero,” the first to suffer from cyberbullying on a wide scale. In a 2015 TED Talk Lewinsky, expressed, “What that meant for me personally was that overnight I went from being a completely private figure to a publicly-humiliated one worldwide. I was Patient Zero of losing a personal reputation on the global scale almost instantaneously.”
The event, Lewinsky was referring to was posh Town and Country magazine’s fifth annual philanthropy summit in New York. The magazine tweeted early in the day about Clinton’s attendance, writing, Welcome to the 2018 #TandCPhilanthropy Summit! Watch LIVE as @BillClinton of @ClintonFdn introduces @Emma4Change … https://t.co/IoNfCmwIFU — TOWN&COUNTRY (@TandCmag) May 9, 2018. Clinton was to introduce Parkland shooting survivor and gun control advocate Emma Gonzalez.
Among the other panels at the summit, was "Activism as the New Philanthropy," "Rewriting the History of Violence," "The Politics of Patronage," "The Future of Cancer Care," "Conscious Capitalism," and "How to Make Philanthropy a Family Tradition." Among the attendees and panelists was a mix of advocates and celebrities. According to Town and Country, they consist of “Hamilton's Lin-Manuel Miranda, a Pulitzer Prize, Tony-, Emmy-, and Grammy Award-winning composer, lyricist, and actor will headline the event along with his family. Additional panelists and speakers include model Karlie Kloss, television anchor and O, The Oprah Magazine editor at large Gayle King, actor Bradley Cooper, entrepreneur Sean Parker, and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes.” The magazine also honored “ Chef and food activist José Andrés, the James Beard Foundation 2018 Humanitarian of the Year.”
The #Metoo has revisited not only the prevalent sexual abuse and harassment that was pushed under the rug but also the meaning of consent especially when there is a difference in power between the two parties. The lopsided power in employment, at universities, relationships between bosses and employees and professors and students particularly. In light of this, Lewinsky, who persistently claimed it was consensual and she was not a victim, but she is currently reconsidering it in light of the #MeToo movement.
Recently, Lewinsky in a March 2018, Vanity Fair article entitled, “Emerging from the ‘House of Gaslight’ in the age of #metoo” re-examined her relationship with former President Bill Clinton. Lewinsky expressed, “I now see how problematic it was that the two of us even got to a place where there was a question of consent. Instead, the road that led there was littered with inappropriate abuse of authority, station, and privilege. (Full stop.)” It impossible to believe a recent university graduate and former White House intern had a choice in her relationship with the president of the country and most powerful man in the free world. The direction of the relationship was always directed by the more powerful one, no matter what.
The fact that 20 years later, Town and Country and the social media is still acting the same towards Lewinsky, shows that the #MeToo movement is not advancing women’s plight and credibility as much as they believe. No matter if Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, and other celebrities, politicians, and journalists fall as result; Bill Clinton is still coasting on the power of the presidency. Democratic New York Senator and former Clinton ally Kirsten Gillibrand caused shock waves when this past November when she told the New York Times she believed Clinton should have resigned during the scandal in 1998. She was right, he should not still have the esteem after his treatment of women not only Lewinsky but including an accusation of rape from early his political career.
Clinton, the aggressor is being treated like a victim, needing Town and Country to impose a restraining order to protect him from Lewinsky. The mentality and preferential treatment are reprehensible, not only is it reminiscent of 20 years ago, but in an era long before the feminist movement, and Lewinsky is still bearing the Scarlet Letter A, while Clinton is revered. For the #MeToo movement to truly cause change, situations like this should never occur and all women should oppose it and speak out against such second-class treatments.
Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion, and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.