A new six-part documentary recently hit our small screens. Since it has been 20 years since the world couldn’t stop talking about “that dress”, Blair Foster decided to direct a documentary focusing on the events leading up to the impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1999. So, of course, its focus was on the affair between Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton, told amongst the stories of other women who were allegedly assaulted by the president. Who, at the time, were ultimately shamed and humiliated for speaking out.
In 1998 Monica Lewinsky was ambushed at a mall by Linda Tripp and FBI agents telling her she was in deep trouble. Linda Tripp had of course betrayed her friend Monica, and gave the FBI tape recordings of her and Monica’s phone conversations, spanning a year. In these conversations, we hear Monica traumatized by her relationship to “the creep” who happened to be the President of the United States of America.
Now, denying an inappropriate relationship to the public is bad enough, but lying about it in a affidavit relating to a law suit made by another woman, Paula Jones, makes it an affair to remember. Paula Jones filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Bill Clinton, saying he exposed himself to her in a hotel room, during a meeting she attended thinking she would be offered a job.
Monica was told by the President that she was going to be questioned and would have to sign an affidavit, in which she denied any relationship with Bill Clinton. The President was also questioned under oath, he denied any sexual relationship with Lewinsky numerous times. What he didn’t know was that the formidable Linda Tripp had told Monica to keep a blue GAP dress that had Clinton’s semen left on it from one of the numerous encounters he and Monica had shared in his private office. On the tape recordings, we hear Monica confused to why Tripp was saying she should keep the soiled dress, why would she ever need it? Well, that dress would become just as formidable as the traitorous Linda Tripp.
The dress was eventually used to prove Monica and Clinton did indeed have an “inappropriate” relationship and one that was not imagined up by Monica, who was painted as an intern who stalked him, making up the entire relationship out of lust for the President.
The affair was the next Watergate scandal, but when we look in-depth at the series of events that took place, it still echoes much of the same news stories we hear about the current occupier of the most powerful office in the world. The most heartbreaking similarity is the way women stand after they are brave enough to speak up, they are left alone and branded a liar. Not much has changed.
During this ordeal, and even after Bill Clinton was accused of perjury after lying under oath, and as a result, impeached. Monica was tormented and slut-shamed by the press and the media. Late night talk shows made sketches of her and Paula Jones, making them out to be ditzy women, whose looks were there to be pointed at and mocked. Comedians made jokes about Monica getting a job in Washington to gain her “presidential kneepads”. And to make it worse, her and the Presidents intimate details were released to the world, so every man and his dog knew what had happened between two consenting adults.
The bullying and lies that took place were shameful, they show of a society who does not easily forgive women, but will happily give second chances to men who have been accused of sexual harassment multiple times.
We can not look back 20 years and think, yes our society and perception of women have changed since the Clinton Affair. Women are still seen as creatures crawling out from under rocks, in the vain of causing trouble by shouting rape. They are still seen as people to be looked at and picked apart. Horrendously laughing at “bulbous noses” or “short skirts” until they become just another one of “those” women who once spoke out about sexual harassment but was subsiquently never heard from again.
It a shock to the system to see how little change has occurred in such time, the stark reality is that if you are a man, you will be given the respect and patience you “deserve”. But if you are a woman, get ready for the pitchforks, and comedians with their pens at the ready.