Many of us have been watching the television series, Impeachment: American Crime Story, which focuses on the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal of the late 1990s. The story is primarily told from the perspective of the women caught in a web of secrets, lies, and political revenge—Linda Tripp, Monica Lewinsky, Paula Jones, and Hillary Clinton. Linda, Monica, and Paula are all, by turns, badgered, and coerced by teams of men in suits. Hillary stands alone as the betrayed wife. All four of them are vilified by the press and condemned by the public. If you were a woman caught up in the vortex of 90s politics (primarily a man’s world), you didn’t stand a chance.
Linda, Monica, Paula, and Hillary have permanently carried the burden of one man’s sexual misconduct and narcissism. Linda Tripp died with the label of ‘betrayer’ and worse hanging over her head. Did she deserve all the negative labels? She was lonely and embittered. She believed that she was doing the right thing. In the beginning, she felt that she was protecting a naïve young woman. Then she got caught up in the intrigue and made some damaging decisions. Were these decisions more damaging than Bill Clinton’s actions?
Monica has lived the life of a woman marked with a scarlet letter. She was 21 years old when she began a sexual relationship with one of the world’s most powerful men. He is still very popular. She has faced insurmountable challenges as the shameful ‘other’ woman. How does this make sense?
Paula Jones simply wanted an apology from Bill Clinton. She laid out a very credible story of sexual harassment. In the end, she was paid off in exchange for her agreement to drop her lawsuit. No apology was ever made. Hopefully, there would have been a different outcome in 2021.
Hillary shouldered the weight of her husband’s indignities throughout her career. She decided to stay with him after the Lewinsky scandal and, for that reason alone, many people turned against her. Marriage is sometimes tough and often complicated. She decided to honour her vows and do what was best for her. Misogyny dogged her campaign for President. How is it that she was targeted for her husband’s behaviour? Why are we still doing this to women?
As I am watching the Impeachment series I wonder, have we learned from these events that rocked the 90s? Would things have turned out differently if played out today—the era of Me Too and Time’s Up? Have we become enlightened enough to view these women through a different lens?