Nearly two decades after her personal life was put up on public display, #MeToo helped Monica Lewinsky battle isolation and shaming. In a recent essay, she says, “Isolation is such a powerful tool to the subjugator. And yet I don’t believe I would have felt so isolated had it all happened today. One of the most inspiring aspects of this newly energized movement is the sheer number of women who have spoken up in support of one another. And the volume in numbers has translated into volume of public voice.”
Whether it is a consensual or non-consensual sexual encounter, the burden of shame falls on women.
Our sexually oppressive society has always been clear on this issue. It is always a woman’s fault. Be it gang-rapes, sexual harassment, molestation, groping, or in Lewinsky’s case, a gross abuse of presidential power to have a consensual extramarital affair with an intern. Hence, it is women who face social discrimination, isolation and shaming.
Mister and Missus Clinton patched up their differences, and stood proudly by each other’s side, as the latter fought her election campaign. While Lewinsky had to battle Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and persistent shaming.
For women, it is always an uphill battle in events of scrutiny of their sexual encounters.
If a woman comes out with an allegation of sexual assault or harassment against a man, especially a powerful one, the first thing that gets questioned is her credibility and character.
The society singles her out and puts her under the microscope. Clearly the woman is responsible for the assault. Maybe her skirt was too short. Or she failed to say ‘No’ loudly and firmly. Maybe she wants to tarnish the gentleman’s image.
Lewinsky was made a scapegoat in order to protect Clinton’s powerful position. They painted her as unstable stalker and Servicer in Chief. It was the support that came her way after #MeToo that helped her re-evaluate the entire episode.
She says, “Given my PTSD and my understanding of trauma, it’s very likely that my thinking would not necessarily be changing at this time had it not been for the #MeToo movement—not only because of the new lens it has provided but also because of how it has offered new avenues toward the safety that comes from solidarity.”
The community of women is helping each other heal
Lewinsky, like many others found support from #MeToo.
The survivors of harassment, assault, and power games are now using the Internet and social media- the very tools their tormentors use to discredit them, to reach out and stand by each other.
#MeToo is a strike against isolation and shaming, which has motivated people to further strengthen their attack on sexual misconduct. Those with power can no longer tear women away from their support system and torment them.
As Lewinsky says, “They are speaking volumes against the pernicious conspiracies of silence that have long protected powerful men when it comes to sexual assault, sexual harassment, and abuse of power.”
If only we could go back in time, and extend help to all the survivors who suffered in silence.
Picture Source: Salon
Dr Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.