Vanity Fair released its photo shoot with Monica Lewinsky on Wednesday, and we thought the pictures were great — tasteful, artistic even. Columnist Ruth Marcus at The Washington Post disagrees.
In a column actually titled "Sit up straight, Ms. Lewinsky," Marcus writes,
The first thing to say about the photograph, by Marc Seliger, is that Lewinsky looks lovely, and younger than her 40 years. The second thing to say is that it was very ill-advised. If I were Monica’s friend — or her mother — I would never have allowed it.
First, it's amazing that Marcus can note Lewinsky's age and then suggest she's someone who needs a mother's guidance in the same paragraph. But why does the 40-year-old Lewinsky need help, in Marcus's opinion? She continues, "Her dress — here is the part where I venture into trouble, but it is a fact that cannot be ignored — is tight, straining at the chest. To look at it is to think: Oh my, this poor woman has allowed herself to be used again." Oh. The entire point of the column is to note that Lewinsky has breasts, and then shame her for it. It's a missive sent straight from 1998.
Marcus isn't the only one to note the promiscuousness apparently inherent in the photos. Maureen Dowd (who Lewinsky said she'd like to get a drink with in her Vanity Fair essay) wrote this week, "[Lewinsky's] striking yet another come-hither pose in the magazine."
This week, some conservatives have repeated their argument from the 1990s that supposedly feminist, liberal women rushed to support President Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal at Lewinsky's expense. She was slut-shamed, as we say now, by women who should have known better than to slut-shame. Joe Scarborough practically had a heart attack on Morning Joe this week yelling about women who cast Lewinsky out in the cold — "You women’s rights ladies, you were sick in the ’90s ... This is about the women who were eviscerating Monica Lewinsky ... And now they’re coming out kicking her in the face?"
Considering Marcus and Dowd used their considerable journalistic platforms this week to criticize Lewinsky for not sitting up straight, it's a fair point. Women shouldn't have shamed Lewinsky in the '90s, and they certainly shouldn't be doing so now. Lewinsky herself feels like the feminist movement failed her. In her essay, she writes:
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.
Sadly, Lewinsky still isn't getting that support.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.