Rising like a phoenix from the social ashes, Monica Lewinsky is back with an important message: cyberbullying has to stop. The now-infamous intern-turned-author is putting herself back in the spotlight that she has so stealthily avoided for the past 17 years, on a mission to help the current and future generations. With the exception of a Vanity Fair article last year, she has done very little press, but earlier this week, she gave an impassioned Ted talk about how public humiliation can be soul-destroying and is only enhanced by the rabid digital revolution.
“Now I admit I made mistakes—especially wearing that beret—but the attention and judgment that I received — not the story, but that I personally received — was unprecedented,” Lewinsky says in the talk. “I was branded as a tramp, tart, slut, whore, bimbo and, of course, ‘that woman.’ I was known by many, but actually known by few. I get it. It was easy to forget ‘that woman’ was dimensional and had a soul.”
Lewinsky contends that her scandalous affair with President Clinton occurred when digital media just started to take off. Her indiscretions, and especially those phone calls to Linda Tripp that were taped and released to the public without her knowledge, spread like wildfire over the Internet.
She was motivated to speak up following the 2010 suicide of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers University freshman who jumped off the George Washington bridge after a video of him having sex with a man was posted all over social media by his then-roommate.
“In 1998, I lost my reputation and my dignity. … I lost my sense of self,” Lewinsky relates. “When this happened to me, 17 years ago, there was no name for it. Now we call it cyber-bullying.”
Lewinsky’s voice is not only welcomed, it’s needed. Online resource NoBullying.com reports that in 2014, 25-percent of teenagers have experienced bullying online and over half of those instances were experienced via social media. Ninety-five percent of the time, teens who witness the bullying of others on social media just ignore it. How scary is that?
It’s not just Lewinsky making waves. Recently other notable figures are standing up against hateful Internet trolls too. Ashley Judd is taking people to court, famed pitcher Curt Schilling is specifically calling out those who wrote disgustingly inappropriate things about his daughter after he congratulated her on Twitter, and Jimmy Kimmel has even made “Celebrities Read Mean Tweets” a hilarious (but kinda sad) segment on his show.
We’re glad that Lewinsky and others are using their incredible outreach to put an end to senseless and hateful behavior. In Lewinsky’s case, she is using her troubled past to create a better future, and that is pretty commendable. Maybe the next time a young girl is cyberbullied, she will know that she’s not alone and a seemingly untenable situation is only a fleeting moment in time.
“Anyone who is suffering from shame and public humiliation needs to know one thing: you can survive it,” says Lewinsky. “I know it’s hard. It may not be painless, quick or easy, but you can insist on a different ending to your story.”
As for the reaction to return? Lewinsky is being applauded from not only The New York Times and Huffington Post, but also the Twitterverse as well. The hashtag #IStandWithMonica is now a thing. What a difference (nearly) 20 years makes.