“Despite what some headlines will falsely report about this piece, this is not about Me versus the Clintons,” Monica Lewinsky writes six pages into her first-person story in the new issue of Vanity Fair. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have darts for the former — and possibly future — first family, along with equally stinging criticisms for “capital F” feminists, internet culture, and all the companies that have been too nervous to hire her.
The full article, which Intelligencer picked up early at a local newsstand, hits Vanity Fair’s digital edition tomorrow and will be in stores officially on May 13. Here’s what we learned about being Monica Lewinsky in 2014:
1. She has a thesis statement about the internet: “We may not have become a crueler society — although it sure feels as if we have — but the internet has seismically shifted the tone of our interactions. The ease, the speed, and the distance that our electronic devices afford us can also make us colder, more glib, and less concerned about the consequences of our pranks and prejudice,” Lewinsky writes as the highbrow justification for her essay. “Having lived in humiliation in the most intimate possible way, I marvel at how willingly we have all signed on to this new way of being.”
Cited: Drudge Report, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, TMZ, Gawker, Tumblr, the Daily Beast, Huffington Post.
2. But she also Googles herself with some frequency: “Time for a little self-Google (Oh, dear reader, please do not judge),” she writes in reference to an incident in February, when the paparazzi appeared outside her building following the publication of a memo in which Hillary Clinton referred to her as a “narcissistic loony toon.” She keeps up with popular culture, too, mentioning references to her infamy made by Scandal, Miley Cyrus, Eminem, and Beyoncé.
3. The suicide of gay Rutgers student Tyler Clementi was her “Prufrockian moment: ‘Do I dare / Disturb the universe?’”: “Or, in my case, the Clinton universe,” she quips. Later, she adds, “(I have never actually attempted suicide, but I had strong suicidal temptations several times during the investigation and during one or two periods after.)”
4. She participated in HBO’s 2002 documentary Monica in Black and White with a higher purpose, as well: Hoping to “shift the focus” from blow jobs “to meaningful issues” of what she herself calls Interngate, Lewinsky argues, “People seemed indifferent to the deeper matters at hand, such as the erosion of private life in the public sphere, the balance of power and gender equality in politics and media, and the erosion of legal protections to ensure that neither a parent nor a child should ever have to testify against each other.” It didn’t work. “How naïve I was,” she sighs.
5. She’s struggled financially: “I’ve managed to get by (barely, at times) with my own projects, usually with start-ups that I have participated in, or with loans from friends and family,” she writes, denying she was ever offered a $12 million deal for a memoir, as reported by the New York Post in 2012.
Remembering all of her failed job interviews, Lewinsky recalls one company revealing, “for us — and probably any other organization that relies on grants and other government funding — it’s risky. We would first need a Letter of Indemnification from the Clintons. After all, there is a 25 percent chance that Mrs. Clinton will be the next president.” (25? Seems low, no?)
6. Hillary will probably not get her vote: Although she identifies as a “conscientious Democrat,” Lewinsky says of the aforementioned “loony toon” memo, “Yes, I get it. Hillary Clinton wanted it on record that she was lashing out at her husband’s mistress. She may have faulted her husband for being inappropriate, but I find her impulse to blame the Woman — not only me, but herself — troubling.” Expect this line of argument, more than any other in the piece, to continue through 2016.
7. She does not consider herself a Feminist: Not in a Shailene Woodley way, but because of how she was treated in the ’90s.
I still have deep respect for feminism and am thankful for the great strides the movement has made in advancing women’s rights over the past few decades. But, given my experience of being passed around like gender-politics cocktail food, I don’t identify myself as a Feminist, capital F. The movement’s leaders failed in articulating a position that was not essentially anti-woman during the witch hunt of 1998.
“I sorely wished for some sign of understanding from the feminist camp. Some good, old-fashioned, girl-on-girl support was much in need. None came,” she writes, singling out a New York Observer story called “New York Supergals Love That Naughty Prez,” featuring the musings of Erica Jong, Nancy Friday, Katie Roiphe, and other big-name women.
8. Bill Clinton “satisfied” her? She kinda, maybe, sort of implies he “reciprocated”: Annotating the above Observer dialogue, Lewinksy zeroes in on Susan Shellogg’s questions about the president: “And do you think it’s tremendously selfish? Selfish and demanding, having oral sex and not reciprocating? I mean … she didn’t say, ‘Well, you know he satisfied me.’” Lewinsky responds:
Me: And where exactly “didn’t” I say this? In which public statement that I didn’t make? In which testimony that’s not been released?
Salacious! Vague! Hm.
9. There may be a Maureen Dowd date in her future: “Sadly the gal who would really make this coven complete is missing: Maureen Dowd, or Moremean Dowdy, as I used to refer to her. Today, I’d meet her for a drink,” Lewinsky writes. (She notes elsewhere, “women themselves are not immune to certain kinds of misogyny.”) But dampening the spirit of reconciliation is Dowd’s column today, in which she writes of Lewinsky’s resurgence, “It was like a Golden Oldie tour of a band you didn’t want to hear in the first place.” On the other hand, we can’t help but tap our foot and hum the lyrics.