Forty-one-year-old former White House intern Monica Lewinsky spoke up against cyber bullying on a speech she gave at a TED conference last Thursday.
Her speech at the premier TED stage marked the second time that Lewinsky had spoken in public since her move to London in 2005. The first time was in Philadelphia late last year at a Forbes Under 30 summit, where she formally announced her campaign to fight online bullying.
In her TED speech, Lewinsky explained that she broke her silence not for politics but to instigate a good cause. She shared that the suicide of Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi inspired her to speak out. Clementi suffered from online bullying when a video of him getting intimate with a man was leaked.
“Tyler’s tragic, senseless death was a turning point for me,” Lewinsky said. She claimed that like Clementi, she was also a victim of cyber bullying even before the term was coined. She described the digital revolution in the 1990s and how it affected the controversy that she was involved in. She explicated, “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.”
She appealed in her speech to those who are suffering from shame and public humiliation. “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,” Lewinsky encouraged. She also took a jab at gossip websites saying that they are running a business of shaming people for money.
In 1998, Lewinsky was the center of the media’s attention when she was involved in a sex scandal with US president Bill Clinton. They started having an illicit affair when she was a 22-year-old intern in the White House. The affair lasted for two years and culminated in a scandal so huge it was global in scale. Being the third party, Lewinsky received many derogatory remarks about her character as a person and now, nearly two decades after, she recalled them on her speech and spoke of her insights regarding such statements.
— Quartz (@qz) March 20, 2015
“… I admit I made mistakes but the attention and judgment I personally received was unprecedented. I was branded as a tramp, t*rt, sl*t, wh*re, 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,” she recollected. Furthermore, she also described her debacle as “very dark days” of her life.
Lewinsky’s speech was met by a standing ovation from the audience and positive feedbacks from various critics. Some online critics even expressed to liking the 41-year-old’s “reinvention.“