Monica Lewinsky: New Feminist Media Icon?

Feminists who bashed Lewinsky in the 90s now doing 180.

You never know who the left is going to prop up as the new face of women’s rights. 

In 2012 it was Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown law student who became the face of “free” contraception. In the past couple of years, the media has similarly fawned over perpetually-naked, fake rape-accusing actress Lena Dunham as the new generation’s voice for feminism. Now, apparently feminists are propping up Monica Lewinsky as an “inspiring” figure against the tide of “slut-shaming” – despite the fact that feminists bashed Lewinsky in the 90’s as a “slutty” “a trashy bimbo” for causing trouble for their guy in the White House.

Feminists have seemingly changed their tune after Lewinsky called them out for attacking her in the 90s, in an interview given to Vanity Fair last year. Jessica Bennett wrote a piece on Lewinsky in the Style section of The New York Times, March 19, where she described the phenomenon. “Feminists who had stayed silent on the first go-round were suddenly defending her,” Bennett wrote, “using terms like ‘slut-shaming’ and ‘media gender bias’ to do it.” 

ELLE Magazine’s Jessica Grose wrote “Hopefully the feminists who trashed her back when have learned from their mistakes, too.” Grose claimed that Lewinski’s feminist tormenters couplen’t get away with it today because of the rise of social media. The slut-shamers, she believed, “would have to deal with the backlash from an organized feminist Twitter mob.” 

That certainly seems true. The Vanity Fair and NYT profiles spawned an opportunity for Lewinksy to speak at a TED Conference last week. She spoke about her experience being a target of online bullying which feminists co-opted as an anti-slut-shaming message. Cosmopolitan called it “inspiring:” 

Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post called it “really, really important” while

Sarah Cristobal of Yahoo! News praised Lewinksy as “a next-gen feminist.” Celebrities and journalists have shown their support for Lewinsky on Twitter, with the trending hashtag #IStandWithMonica.

— Kristine Marsh is Staff Writer for MRC Culture at the Media Research Center. Follow Kristine Marsh on Twitter.