Monica Lewinsky has had a troubled relationship with masculinity to say the least, but in Prince Harry, JAY-Z, and Brad Pitt she sees a new, better kind of male vulnerability.
Writing in Vanity Fair, Lewinsky praises the three celebrities for engaging in conversation that’s “soulful, engaging, vulnerable, and even feminist.”
Lewinsky points to Prince Harry, who over the last few months has been unusually open about with the press about his personal struggles, including an interview in which he talked about his mother, Princess Diana’s funeral. “My mother had just died, and I had to walk a long way behind her coffin, surrounded by thousands of people watching me while millions more did on television,” he said. “I don’t think any child should be asked to do that, under any circumstances. I don’t think it would happen today.”
“Prince Harry has not just been issuing sound bites,” Lewinsky says. “He has been putting his words into action with his dedication to helping empower those who are often marginalized and stigmatized: from military veterans and people with disabilities in the armed services (through the Invictus Games he created), to those suffering from mental health issues (the Heads Together initiative), to victims of public shaming (the Diana Award’s anti-bullying campaign).”
On Pitt, Lewinsky references a recent GQ profile in which the star spoke honestly and emotionally about his life in the wake of his split from Angelina Jolie, saying, “For me this period has really been about looking at my weaknesses and failures and owning my side of the street.”
“I am those mistakes. For me every misstep has been a step toward epiphany, understanding, some kind of joy,” Pitt added, going on to say, “I’ve got my feelings in my fingertips again. I think that’s part of the human challenge: you either deny them all of your life or you answer them and evolve.”
Then there’s JAY-Z, whose recent album “4:44” and its accompanying video, “Footnotes for 4:44”, in which he opens up artistically about the act of cheating on his wife, Beyonce, and then trying to hold his marriage together.
“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,” JAY-Z says in the video. “Things start happening that the public can see. Then we had to get to a point of ‘O.K., tear this down and let’s start from the beginning’ . . . It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
Lewinsky praises that openness, especially in the face of public criticism. “Jay-Z could have ignored it all. But, instead, he chose a path of candor that will—like Brad’s and Prince Harry’s—move the conversation forward and help others,” she says.
“It is a refreshing and bracing antidote to see male icons 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 writes. “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.”