Rants, Feelings & Opinions

The Politics of a Blow Job

May 14, 2015
Former White House intern, Monica Lewinsky leaves the family home in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles, May 26, 1998. Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr has requested handwriting and voice samples as well as fingerprints from Lewinsky. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

Imagine your entire public life was defined by a blow job. Writer Dana Droppo makes a bid for how Monica can help team Hillary.

When I was 10, my friend introduced me to an 8-bit video game that sparked a lifelong fascination: The Clinton/Lewinsky Affair. In the game, player 1’s avatar is a pixelated Bill Clinton with a big head, skinny legs, and a giant red erection. You (as Bill) traipse through the corridors of The Whitehouse, aroused and eyes wide in search of young Monica. Instead of racking up little gold coins, or saving Princess Peach, when you win—you get a blow job. To me, this seemed like a much more realistic depiction of winning at life than the fairy tale victory scenes other video games offered. But that’s besides the point.

As a young, pre-pubescent Canadian child, playing that game peaked my interest in American politics for the first time. Wait, there are sex scandals in politics? Was the president of the United States a sex freak? Is Monica Lewinsky a famous person? Why does this feel exciting, funny, and confusing at the same time? And, when is his very angry-looking wife going to leave him?

Essentially all of those questions stand to this day, except the last one. Hillary stayed, and now she’s gunning for his old job. Watching Hillary Clinton announce her candidacy was incredible. Sure, the presidential election in a two-party system is flawed. Sure, we knew she would run again. Her 2008 campaign (20 years after Bill owned up to his affair) was a prep course, while this time she could—very realistically—win. My recent Google image search of Hillary as a young, fiery editor up to her wrists in drafts at the Yale Review of Law and Social Action, or pointing fingers mid conversation wearing tight, orange-and-brown-striped bell bottoms was an evocative experience. This woman could be the president of the United States, and fifteen years ago I wrote her off as the betrayed and discarded wife—when I was ten. Talk about a comeback.

For the last two decades Monica Lewinsky remained silent. In her June 2014 Vanity Fair essay she recounted her experience living through excruciating scrutiny over a sexual relationship in her early 20s. If you haven’t already taken a moment to mentally insert yourself into Lewinsky’s power suit-clad young adult self back in ‘98, take two. Imagine your entire public profile defined by a blow job. At 41, Monica Lewinsky is still a punch line. (And if you have more than one single moment, ponder this DIY mini series and how palpably close to the truth it could be.)

Lewinsky took the stage in March this year for a Ted Talk and lightheartedly turned the spotlight toward members of the audience, suggesting all of them had probably done things at 22 they regret. Some, she joked, might have even fallen in love with their bosses. People laughed, they shrugged and listened to her wax poetic about the dangers of cyber bullying. She abhorred the culture of exposure, and decried our society’s penchant for making things public without consent, context, or compassion. It wasn’t a speech filled with groundbreaking ideas, but it was charming and it was honest. Lewinsky accurately labeled herself, “Patient Zero of losing a personal reputation on a global scale almost instantaneously.” And you felt for her.

Lewinsky also addressed the timing of her re-emergence into the public eye as a personal choice, tacitly implying it had nothing to do with Hillary’s campaign announcement. We can give her the benefit of the doubt, accepting her insistence that it simply “was time.” However, it’s vital to recognize not only for Lewinsky, but for the other woman archetype, that this election is pregnant with a bigger opportunity.

Diane Sawyer asked Hillary what she thought of Lewinsky’s choice to come out in public now. “She is, in my view, an American who gets to express herself however she chooses,” said Clinton. Do not forget, your 2016 presidential candidate rides hard for American freedom. She continued, “I would wish her well, I hope that she is able to think about her future and construct a life that she finds meaning and satisfaction in.” These are calm, wise words wrapped in self-discipline and strong will. Lest we forget, the person who has the best shot at being the first woman president of the United States of America was deemed a “counterfit feminist” by Maureen Dowd in the New York Times, “after she let her man step all over her.” She’s worked hard to gain the feminist support ticket by sheer ceiling-shattering on an unprecedented level, but charisma has never been Clinton’s strong suit. She might have some powerful donors behind her, valid experience, and the will to win, but capturing hearts and connecting with people on a raw, interpersonal level has always been a challenge for her. Monica, on the other hand, gets it.

Hillary Clinton and Monica Lewinsky represent two polar sides of the “why women hate themselves” spectrum. On the one hand, you have a woman who’s worth the American public will only acknowledge up to the butt of a fellatio joke. On the other, you have an endlessly accomplished pioneer, stripped of every ounce of sensuality and allure any person revels in. The opportunity at play here, is for each to recognize and accept the other.

The realest thing Hillary Clinton could do in the lead up to the 2016 presidential election is give Monica Lewinsky a job. She doesn’t have to hire her to be campaign manager. They don’t even have to work alongside one another. Give her a job heading up an anti-cyberbullying program. In addition to being demonstratively compassionate, Clinton gets the ultimate and impossibly rare chance to redirect the narrative of a national scandal on her own terms. She wins bigger-person of the century, for taking mercy on her husband’s ex-lover, but also offers a young woman a second chance at redemption in the eyes of the country they both love. Asking Monica to step up to the plate in her navy dress and help humanize a portrait of president Clinton, it might just help her win, too. And the only thing more American than redemption is winning.

Dana Droppo is an editor at Complex mag.

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