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A Woman Scorned: Tackling Gen-Z’s Obsession With Controversial Women

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Conn chapter.

Growing up in the early to late 2000s, we’ve all heard the jokes about Monica Lewinsky and Britney Spears, ones about a shaven head and a blue dress. However, the worst of them were coming from the adults surrounding us, our parents, aunts and uncles, and maybe even teachers. We’ve grown up in an era where it was normal to dogpile on women after them having a scandal or to pinpoint all the blame on them. But the tides have changed when it comes to that, and the public perception of these women, and the reasoning for this can be traced back to Gen-Z.

As we are all aware, Monica Lewinsky became infamous after her affair with the president at the time was exposed, after he and she both lied about its existence. The exposure of the affair launched an impeachment trial and all of Monica’s sins were aired out, literally, for the whole world to see. She soon became the sole bearer of responsibility in the eyes of all and was promptly ridiculed for decades. She tried to maintain a public life in the United States but the attention of it became too much and she was forced to move to the UK where she was able to hide out for a couple of years. As of recently, she’s attempted to come back to the US, publicly, and the reaction to her is a lot different. After years of ridicule, she’s been accepted back with open arms, but how and why? Are the people who drove her away older now and don’t care? Is it just that the times are different?

The answer could clearly be both, but many of those who were watching the scandal unfold in real-time, still for the most part share the same sentiments. Some think the answer is Gen-Z, and this is what Monica believes as well. Monica has shared that when her story first came out, it was easy to paint her as the villain for stealing another woman’s husband, but the younger generation has realized that maybe it wasn’t just that. There was a power dynamic, the other woman’s husband was the president and Monica’s boss. What could have happened had she refused his advances, was she even in a position to say no? Monica has also stated that this could have possibly been what was happening since she was only 22 years old and just an intern.

The change of narrative surrounding the affair has also allowed her to embark on journeys like being a model for brands like Reformation, where she led a campaign targeting young adults to go vote in the 2024 election. The campaign was met with reactions from Gen-Z like, “Wow what an icon,” and “She was born in the wrong generation.” Older individuals remain horrified, like journalist Megyn Kelly, who chastised Gen-Z for idolizing her. Saying things like making a mistake at 22 is understandable, but that Gen-Z shouldn’t make her a heroine.


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But I think what Megyn doesn’t understand is that this is what Gen-Z does, we make women like Monica heroines seemingly every day. Gen-Z has begun this phenomenon where they take women who were largely disliked by Gen-X and Millennials during the 90s, 00s, and 10s and cast them in a new light. Britney Spears is another great example of this since she’s been quite prominent in pop culture recently. She was beloved by all for a long period of time, but when her stardom was starting to affect her mental health and her personal life was blasted all over the tabloids, people turned their backs on her. But in recent years, and as Gen-Z started to get older, people started to realize that she needed help and was now stuck in a conservatorship, hence the Free Britney movement. Now she’s no longer stuck in a horrible situation and she’s returned to being the beloved pop star that she once was. And her public image has changed as well, she’s no longer seen as crazy, just someone who was most likely dealing with a mental health crisis and in general, mental health issues.

But the power of the Gen-Z isn’t always overt. An example of this is Jennifer Lawerence, a 2010s teen movie icon. During the height of her fame, she wasn’t always very well-liked, many found her obnoxious and annoying. This wasn’t helped by her winning an Oscar at such a young age. The overall general dislike of her caused her to take a slight break from acting. But she’s returned with the movie, No Hard Feelings, which prompted her back onto the main stage, with the conversation surrounding her being positive. The difference is that it’s mainly Gen-Z having the conversation, who love and respect her for her work in movies like The Hunger Games.

It seems as a society, we have a tendency to dislike any women, particularly those who are young, successful, or ambitious, and label them with whatever we can to justify our dislike of them, and this dislike is only fueled when that woman does something we don’t support or like. So as long as this continues, I believe this phenomenon should and will continue to exist.

Sagal M

U Conn '25

Sagal is a sophomore at the University of Connecticut. She's studying Political Science. She's hopes to become a lawyer focusing on civil rights law. Her favorite hobbies are watching rom-coms and reading books.