She’s referring to recent admissions the three men have made of various maladies, be they alcoholism, infidelity or the intersection of mourning and mental health.
The essay struck a far different tone than a commentary she wrote in May for the New York Times following the death of Roger Ailes, the Fox News chairman and chief executive who was forced to step down in 2016 following a sexual harassment scandal. Lewinsky said that Ailes built a culture of male entitlement that made women within his organization targets for harassment.
She also wrote that Ailes exploited her relationship with President Bill Clinton to put Fox News on the map, adding a quote from Fox executive editor John Moody: “Monica was a news channel’s dream come true.” Lewinsky wrote: “My character, my looks and my life were picked apart mercilessly. Truth and fiction mixed at random in the service of higher ratings.”
Prince Harry, Pitt and Jay-Z, on the other hand, have been a “refreshing and bracing antidote” as they “convey vulnerability in an age when Washington’s new power elite and our coarsening culture are busy projecting an outmoded caricature of manhood, 24/7,” Lewinsky’s Vanity Fair essay said.
In that piece, broken into three parts, Lewinsky explored recent revelations by these three famously private male celebrities, whom she sees as exuding a different kind of masculinity.
Lewinsky began with Prince Harry, who recently spearheaded the British mental-health awareness campaign Heads Together with his brother, Prince William and sister-in-law Kate Middleton. It encourages those quietly suffering from mental illness to seek help.
While promoting the campaign, Harry opened up about his own mental health struggles in the wake of his mother Princess Diana’s death, telling Telegraph reporter Bryony Gordon that he waited 20 years before truly mourning. In that time, Harry said, his unaddressed feelings fueled erratic, wild and sometimes dangerous behavior. He has since begun attending therapy.
“I can safely say that losing my mom at the age of 12 and therefore shutting down all of my emotions for the last 20 years has had a quite serious effect on not only my personal life but also my work as well,” he told Gordon. “And it was only three years ago, funny enough, from the support around, and my brother and other people saying, ‘You really need to deal with this. It’s not normal to think that nothing has affected you.’ ”
“The scuttlebutt in London after Harry’s revelations was that The Elder royals were reportedly aghast at the emotional transparency exhibited by The Youngers,” Lewinsky wrote. “But it’s clear to most in Gen X through Gen Z, that such openness is the way forward.”
She added that Harry “has not just been issuing sound bites,” but actually “putting his words into action” through various initiatives, such as the Diana Award, which he and William give in the name of “Diana, Princess of Wales’ name to young role models who are selflessly transforming the lives of others,” according to its website.
Lewinsky’s next example, Brad Pitt, lives across the pond from Harry but was equally as forthcoming in a May GQ magazine profile. In it, Pitt candidly discussed his divorce from star Angelina Jolie, quitting drinking and going to therapy.
Pitt called the split “a huge generator for change” that made him consider self-help.
“I just started therapy,” he said. “I love it, I love it. I went through two therapists to get to the right one.”
His drinking had gotten out of hand, to the point where, as he put it, “I could drink a Russian under the table with his own vodka.”
I can’t remember a day since I got out of college when I wasn’t boozing or had a spliff, or something. Something. … And I’m running from feelings. I’m really, really happy to be done with all of that. I mean I stopped everything except boozing when I started my family. But even this last year, you know — things I wasn’t dealing with. I was boozing too much. It’s just become a problem. And I’m really happy it’s been half a year now, which is bittersweet, but I’ve got my feelings in my fingertips again.
“Neither Thelma nor Louise would recognize the voice of the mature cowboy Brad Pitt,” Lewinsky wrote, calling the actor, “Still gorgeous, but now evolved.”
She called out television personality Piers Morgan for ridiculing “Pitt’s honest emotion and vulnerability while also revealing his own antiquated sense of masculinity” with this tweet:
What Morgan failed to acknowledge was the sea change that has occurred over the past generation: to “man up” and to be a “real man,” among young males of courage and conviction, now go hand-in-hand with expressing raw emotion, acknowledging flaws, opening up, facing consequences.
Many called his newest album “4:44” a response to his wife Beyoncé’s smash record “Lemonade,” on which she sang about an unnamed man’s marital infidelity. Fans took the lyrics to be a thinly veiled account of her own marriage and subsequently poured out support for her and vitriol for Jay-Z.
Jay-Z seemed to address the matter in a video titled “Footnotes for 4:44,” which accompanied the record.
“This is my real life. I just ran into this place and we built this big, beautiful mansion of a relationship that wasn’t totally built on the 100 percent truth and it starts cracking,” he said in the video. “Things start happening that the public can see. Then we had to get to a point of ‘Okay, tear this down and let’s start from the beginning’ . . . It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
“Jay-Z had a choice,” Lewinsky wrote, pointing out that “his fans wouldn’t have blinked if his next album skimmed past the allegations.”
“That’s not uncommon for men to do,” she added. “But, instead, he chose a path of candor that will — like Brad’s and Prince Harry’s — move the conversation forward and help others.”
Lewinsky concluded the essay with an optimistic reflection on relationships.
“As we wrestle with gender roles and relationships between the sexes — and see issues of sexism running rampant from the tech world to politics — it’s heartening to see a crack in the implicit contract among men, their emotions, and society at large,” she wrote.
Given that Lewinsky’s public fall from grace was at the hand of Clinton — a man she worked for who denied their sexual liaison afterwards — it may not be surprising she became interested in masculinity, particularly a new brand of it.
During the Clinton presidency, Lewinsky’s name became synonymous with scandal in the media. It was even crudely bandied about in rap songs by dozens upon dozens of men and women alike, including Beyoncé.
“I felt like every layer of my skin and my identity were ripped off of me in ’98 and ’99,” she told Jon Ronson, author of “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed,” about 20 years after the scandal. “It’s a skinning of sorts. You feel incredibly raw and frightened. But I also feel like the shame sticks to you like tar.”
“I was branded as a tart, slut, whore, bimbo, floozy and of course ‘that woman,’ I was seen by many but truly known by few It was hard to remember ‘that woman’ had a soul and was once unbroken,” she said in 2015. “In 1998 I lost my reputation and my dignity, I lost almost everything, and I almost lost my life.”
She fought back for control of her image by speaking openly, honestly, and emotionally — by being vulnerable, in much the way she characterizes Prince Harry, Brad Pitt and Jay-Z.
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