Former White House intern Monica Lewinsky is back in the news with an essay about her relationship with President Clinton, its long-term consequences, and the dawn of internet mudslinging.
While a politician cheating on his spouse about as cliche as a dark and stormy night, the Clinton-Lewinsky mess is a prime example of the oldest and highly sexist double standard in our society: men are heralded for being sexual while women are publicly shamed and punished for the same activity. Overwhelming evidence can be seen in President Clinton's and Lewinsky's life paths after the scandal broke.
After leaving office, President Clinton helped his wife launch a successful Senate campaign, started the Clinton Global Initiative, wrote a couple of books, and made more than $90 million in speaking fees. He also got involved in disaster relief after Hurricane Katrina and the Indian Ocean tsunami. His post-White House activities are numerous.
But most importantly, President Clinton is still well-liked here and abroad despite not only the Lewinsky scandal but Whitewater, Paula Jones, Waco, Elian Gonzalez, Vince Foster, Gennifer Flowers, and his administration's failed health care reform attempt.
After the scandal died down, Lewinsky moved out of politics. She started her own handbag line, had a brief stint with Jenny Craig, and did some television gigs, some of which were tied to her White House experience. Moving abroad to escape the public eye, Lewinsky studied psychology at the London School of Economics. Her master's thesis got very personal: "In Search of the Impartial Juror: An Exploration of the Third-Person Effect and Pre-Trial Publicity." She hasn't done much else in the last few years.
Americans, experts, global leaders, etc. all still praise Clinton for his work as governor, President, humanitarian, intellectual, and world leader. Even despite this sex scandal, he had on average higher ratings in his second term than his first. Lewinsky is known for one thing and that's it. Even at the time of the scandal, the list of President Clinton's transgressions was a lot longer than Lewinsky's.
Yet he came through only lightly tainted, and she did not.
Even though both of them were complicit in their sexual activity, only Lewinsky suffers from permanent public scrutiny. Even though her fame is due to sexual activity with one person (and that person had already been known to previously mess around with women), she is still slut shamed for it along with her weight. How cliche. (My mother goes one step further and holds Lewinsky accountable for all of that because those blowjobs were unilateral activities?)
Tally up President Clinton's and Lewinsky's activities and likability post-scandal and you get a glaring, sexist, outdated double standard.