Stylist is running its first ever feminist advent calendar in 2018, with a remarkable woman revealing who her feminist icon is every day until 25 December. Here, JoJo Moyes reveals why Monica Lewinsky is her ultimate feminist icon.
My feminist icon is Monica Lewinsky. I’m aware that to some the fact that she had a relationship with a married man rules her out of any kind of iconic status, let alone a feminist one, but my personal brand of feminism is a little wider and more nuanced than that.
Everyone knows Monica was a young woman in an epically unbalanced power relationship when she fell in love with the President of the United States. And by God she paid the price for it. Betrayed by friends, used as a political pawn by authorities, threatened, and vilified by a public who couldn’t quite bear to put the full blame on a charming man, she became the villain of the piece instead of the victim. Because we always find a way to blame the woman somehow.
Her name, over two decades, had its humanity, its meaning, stripped away, until she became a thing.
Full disclosure: I am friends with Monica and have been for some years. During this time, I’ve heard rappers and singers use her name as a verb. I have thrown away a decent literary book that randomly included two pages of jokes about her. I’ve watched online abuse directed at her that made me want to punch a hole through my screen. The cultural thinking seemed to be that she had become so famous that she was fair game.
It would have been enough to crush anyone. And yet, Monica has forged a new life – one where she has become, among other roles, an award-winning anti-bullying ambassador. She is smart, self-aware, self-deprecating, kind and funny. She is a good friend. She has survived the slings and arrows of a misogynistic world and done it with grace and without self-pity. Her recent essays for Vanity Fair on #MeToo have changed the conversation around notions of consent.
For me, she is an icon because she has survived the absolute worst a patriarchal society has thrown at her – shouldering an unimaginable burden - while acknowledging her own role in it (and saying sorry).
We all make mistakes, especially when young. Not all of us pay a global public price, and come out with her spirit and generosity. I’d be proud if my own daughter turned out like her. Brava Monica.
philosophy are the official partner of Stylist’s Remarkable Women Awards 2018 and, for every day in December, Stylist is asking a remarkable woman to tell us who her feminist icon is, and why. You can see more inspiring and remarkable women here.
Share this article
Recommended by Jojo Moyes
My Feminist Icon: Dawn O’Porter reveals why Mary Portas inspires her the most
Monica Lewinsky breaks her 10-year silence on the Bill Clinton affair
Jojo Moyes had the best reaction to seeing a fan reading her books for the first time
The daily writing routine of best-selling author JoJo Moyes
Everything you need to know about London’s new feminist bookshop