Slow Burn: Feminist response to Clinton-Lewinsky scandal.

How Did Feminists React to the Clinton-Lewinsky Scandal?

How Did Feminists React to the Clinton-Lewinsky Scandal?

History in real time.
Sept. 26 2018 6:01 AM


Clinton’s enemies said his affair made him unfit to govern. What did his friends think?


Today it’s conventional wisdom that all feminists hypocritically turned their backs on Monica Lewinsky. In fact, the scandal provoked an intense debate within the feminist movement about sex, power, and consent. For some, it was obvious that Clinton had victimized Lewinsky and needed to be thrown overboard. For others, it was just as obvious that the scandal was part of a political war in which Clinton was the good guy.

In the seventh episode of our series on Clinton’s impeachment, Leon Neyfakh excavates the arguments and ideas that divided liberals—and feminists in particular—at the height of the scandal.


Listen to Slow Burn via Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify, Stitcher, or Google Play.

Slate Plus members get a bonus episode of Slow Burn every week. This week’s extra features Madeline Kaplan’s interview with Dillon Teachout, who describes her experience working what might be one of the oddest summer jobs of all time: an internship in the independent counsel’s office in the summer of 1998. Leon and Slate senior producer Mary Wilson also discuss the making of Episode 7.

If you are logged in to your Slate Plus account, you can find this week’s bonus episode in the player below or in your members-only podcast feed. Not yet a member? Click here to join.

Notes on Episode 7


In researching this episode, we made use of the following sources.


Baker, Peter. The Breach, Scribner, 2000.

Berlant, Lauren and Duggan, Lisa A., ed. Our Monica, Ourselves, NYU Press, 2009.


Gormley, Ken. The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr, Crown/Archetype, 2010.

Hirshman, Linda. Reckoning: The 50-Year Epic Battle Against Sexual Abuse and Harassment, forthcoming from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019.


Riley, Russell. Inside the Clinton White House: An Oral History, Oxford University Press, 2016.

Roth, Philip. The Human Stain, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2000.

The Starr Report,” Washington Post, 1998.

Toobin, Jeffrey. A Vast Conspiracy, Random House, 1999.


Film, TV, and Radio

Goodman, Amy. “Clinton Scandal: A Feminist Issue?” Democracy Now!, 1998.

Goodman, Barak and Durrance, Chris. American Experience: Clinton, PBS, 2012.


Assuras, Thalia and Robelot, Jane. “CBS News Polls on How the Public Is Looking at President Clinton and the Monica Lewinsky Affair,” CBS News, Sept. 10, 1998.

Barringer, Felicity and Firestone, David. “On Tortuous Route, Sexual Assault Accusation Against Clinton Resurfaces,” New York Times, Feb. 24, 1999.

Baumgardner, Jennifer and Richards, Amy. “In Defense of Monica,” the Nation, Dec. 21, 1998.

Berke, Richard L. “Democrats Hold Off G.O.P. Advance, Weakening Impeachment Prospects,” New York Times, Nov. 4, 1998.

Blum, Justin. “Dissenting Dulles Chapter Wages High-Profile Battle With NOW,” Washington Post, June 1, 1998.

Colton, Michael and Rosenfeld, Megan. “Window Into Monica’s World,” Washington Post, Sept. 14, 1998.

Copeland, Libby Ingrid and Span, Paula. “From Women, Tolerance,” Washington Post, Sept. 14, 1998.

De Moraes, Lisa and Kurtz, Howard. “The Elusive Lewinsky Interview,” Washington Post, Sept. 30, 1998.

Dowd, Maureen. “Liberties: Tarred and Feathered,” New York Times, June 10, 1998.

Eggen, Dan. “Ashcroft’s Faith Plays Visible Role at Justice,” Washington Post, May 14, 2001.

Ehrenreich, Barbara. “The Week Feminists Got Laryngitis,” CNN, Feb. 9, 1998.

Elperin, Juliet and Morgan, Dan. “Clinton Videotape Set for Release,” Washington Post, Sept. 19, 1998.

Fulwood III, Sam. “Women’s Advocates Offer Clinton Support,” Los Angeles Times, Sept. 25, 1998.

Harris, John F. “At White House, Apologies and a Search for Strategy,” Washington Post, Sept. 10, 1998.

Harris, John F. and Kaiser, Robert G. “Shalala’s Remarks Irk Clinton,” Washington Post, Sept. 11, 1998.

Hess, Amanda. “ ‘Ditsy, Predatory White House Intern,’ " Slate, May 7, 2014.

Hicks, Jerry. “The Accomplishments of Feminism, NOW and Then,” Los Angeles Times, Sept. 5, 1996.

Hill, Anita. “The Thomas Lesson,” New York Times, Sept. 28, 1998.

Kaminer, Wendy. “Feminists Against the First Amendment,” the Atlantic, November 1992.

Lacayo, Richard. “When Is Sex Not ‘Sexual Relations’?” CNN, Aug. 17, 1998.

Lewinsky, Monica. “Emerging From ‘the House of Gaslight’ in the Age of #MeToo,” Vanity Fair, March 2018.

Lieban Levine, Simone. “Feminist Debates: Pornography,” Ms., June 10, 2014.

Neil, Terry M. and Edsall, Thomas B. “Allegations Pose Agony for Women’s Groups,” Washington Post, Jan. 30, 1998.

Prose, Francine. “New York Supergals Love That Naughty Prez,” New York Observer, Feb. 9, 1998.

Schwartz, Dana. “NOW Chapter Takes Aim at Clinton,” CNN, Feb. 24, 1998.

Steinem, Gloria. “Feminists and the Clinton Question,” New York Times, Mar. 22, 1998.

Toner, Robin. “Clinton Orders Reversal of Abortion Restrictions Left by Reagan and Bush,” New York Times, Jan. 23, 1993.

Top Court Pick Continues to Pave Way for Women,” Argus-Leader, June 15, 1993.

Vobejda, Barbara. “Shalala: A Lifetime Spent in the Center of Storms,” Washington Post, Jan. 14, 1993.

Weeks, Linton. “House Scrambles for Online Release,” Washington Post, Sept. 11, 1998.

Williams, Marjorie. “Clinton and Women,” Vanity Fair, May 1998.