Monica Lewinsky Gives Moving TED Talk On Cyberbullying, Public Shame

Monica Lewinsky received a standing ovation all the way from the lobby for what venture capitalist Chris Sacca called “one of the best, most courageous TED talks ever.” Called “The Price Of Shame,” Lewinsky’s talk delved into the increasingly common phenomenon of cyberbullying and her personal experience with public shame. She ended by saying there is a life after being a punch-line.

Everyone over the age of 20 is well-acquainted with the name Monica Lewinsky. She was the intern who had a sexual and romantic relationship with former President Bill Clinton.

According to the TED Blog, “At the age of 22, I fell in love with my boss.”

“At the age of 24, I learned the devastating consequences. In 1998, after having been swept up in an improbable romance, I was then swept up into the eye of a political, legal and media maelstrom like we had never seen before.”

Behind that maelstrom was the Internet revolution.

One of the lesser known Lewinsky scandal facts is that the Drudge Report, an Internet news aggregator, was the first media outlet to report on the love affair. At the time, Drudge claimed that Newsweek editors were sitting on the story, and four days later the Washington Post validated the news aggregator and ran the story.

It was the first time the Internet seemed to have beaten the mainstream news to the punch.

As Monica Lewinsky explained, “It was the first time traditional news was usurped by the Internet, a click that reverberated around the whole world.”

“I was Patient Zero of losing a personal reputation on a global scale almost instantaneously.”

Lewinsky goes on to explain that the scandal was unprecedented in the amount of hatred she personally received as a newly public figure.

“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 explained that she lost her reputation and her dignity.

“When this happened to me, 17 years ago, there was no name for it. Now we call it cyberbullying.”

Cyberbullying takes many forms nowadays, affecting both celebrities and normal people. Jennifer Lawrence received plenty of unwanted attention when hackers released her nude photos online. According to the Huffington Post, the Sony email leaks from North Korean hackers caused trauma for chairperson Amy Pascal, who later reported that Sony fired her as a result.

For Monica Lewinsky, the public shaming eventually consumed her life. She was bound by a transactional immunity agreement from speaking about the specifics of the scandal. Nevertheless, Lewinsky made a number of public appearances immediately after the scandal, garnering hundreds of thousands of dollars, which were reportedly eaten up by high legal costs.

Finding that she couldn’t escape her past, Monica Lewinsky disappeared from the public eye for a decade by pursuing a Masters Degree in Social Psychology at the London School of Economics.

Aside from an essay in Vanity Fair, the TED talk is Lewinsky’s first time back in the limelight since her ordeal.

According to the New York Times, Lewinsky was “in black slacks and a navy button-down. She was confident and poised. She looked like herself, only… different.”

Why did she choose to come back now?

Lewinsky answered, “because it’s time. Time to stop tiptoeing around my past… Time to take back my narrative.”

After going through the personal battle she faced, Lewinsky called for a more passionate Internet, one without the trolls.

But Monica Lewinsky also reminded the audience that no matter how bad it gets, there is a life after public humiliation.

“Anyone who is suffering from shame and public humiliation needs to know one thing: you can survive it. I know it’s hard. It may not be painless, quick or easy, but you can insist on a different ending to your story.”

Monica Lewinsky’s full TED talk could come out as early as tomorrow, until then here’s a brief clip.

[Image Credit: Getty Images]

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