Poor Monica Lewinsky. I mean, you know your life has hit a low point when half the nation is dressing up as you for Halloween.Mocked and degraded, Monica has become the most infamous other-woman in American history. Clinton is on the road to impeachment, the Democrats are in peril in November`s elections, cigar sales have skyrocketed, and we’re not so far away from seeing exactly what kind of weapon Hillary will use on Bill the day he’s no longer President. All because of Monica. So what do we make of “that woman, Ms. Lewinsky?” Is she an opportunistic slut, or a young victim seduced by a powerful man? For the first six months, everyone thought she was a liar. But at least then, she was still accorded a few shreds of sympathy. When Clinton admitted that the affair took place, and the Starr report revealed that she flashed her thong, the insults and taunts only heightened. The innocent image was gone, and she was suddenly a full-blown strumpet. And now she’s scrounging for million-dollar book deals and talk show interviews. It’s easy to condemn her and even easier to make fun of her. But in the same position, would most people have acted any differently? Perhaps she was a victim of an older, powerful man or perhaps she was just a victim of society and human nature.Imagine that you are a female intern at the White House. All your life, you have learned that your body is a great way to get attention and better treatment. The cute secretary who flirts with her boss always gets the end-of-the-year bonus. Your duties take you by the Oval Office, where the leader of the free world gives you a wink, and later, a couple of squeezes. You’re a stupid, horny, naive 23-year-old who is flattered by the attention, and you hope to wrangle a better job out of the flirtation. Honestly, doesn’t even the most cynical student feel a little cocky after talking to Brit Kirwan? It’s all innocent and normal enough, until you go home and realize that the man who touched you was the President of the United States. So what do you do? You tell a couple friends – I mean, it is a pretty amazing story. Soon obsessed with this rush of significance, you write him cute little notes and feel giddy when he wears a tie you gave him. You even save mementos of your encounters as later proof that it wasn’t just a dream. And so the encounters progress in intimacy.Monica Lewinsky did get the fame she always dreamed of as a little girl. But not for doing anything other than following her role as a young female employee. And now, what does she have to look forward to? A few months of book deals, and then a lifetime of pointing and shame.The male boss/female employee tale is a staple of the American drama. So perhaps when we look at the Lewinsky scandal, we shouldn’t just regard it as an isolated incident of sex or abuse between two depraved individuals. And maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to condemn them for acting so . . . normally. What occurred between Bill and Monica is what goes on subtly in so many situations where there are differences in power, yet we are ignoring the broader social implications that this scandal so clearly typifies. There’s a little bit of Lewinsky in all of us … at least as long as a woman’s body is a commodity and people lust for power.
Jessica Weeks’ column appears on Monday’s in the Lantern.