Monica Lewinsky Gives Moving TED Talk On Cyberbullying, Culture Of Public Shaming
Monica Lewinsky delivered a moving TED Talk on Thursday about cyberbullying titled “The Price of Shame,” where she spoke about her experiences with bullying after her affair with President Bill Clinton was exposed.
Monica Lewinsky “The Price of Shame”
After years of staying away from the spotlight, Lewinsky stepped back into public life in 2014 by publishing an intimate essay on “the culture of humiliation” in Vanity Fair. She continued to speak out against the bullying nature of public opinion and online bullying in a talk for Forbes, after which TED approached Lewinsky and asked her to speak at their conference in Canada.
“At the age of 22, I fell in love with my boss. And at the age of 24, I learned the devastating consequences,” Lewinsky told the audience at her TED Talk on Thursday, March 19.
Lewinsky went on to recount the scrutiny she received after being outted as the woman having an affair with the President, calling herself “Patient Zero” for the now rampant culture of worldwide humiliation and shaming. Lewinsky, who has a master’s degree from the London School of Economics, has previously stated that she has had trouble keeping steady employment, no doubt her name and international reputation makes getting jobs difficult.
“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 said.
Lewinsky’s experience – secretly recorded tapes of her conversations were leaked to the media and made public – was unique in 1998, but has since become a common occurrence. One such occurrence, Lewinsky said, inspired her to return to the public sphere: the tragic death of Tyler Clementi, a freshman in college who committed suicide after his roommate recorded a video of him having sex with another man.
“Tyler’s tragic, senseless death was a turning point for me. It served to recontextualize my experiences. I began to look at the world of humiliation and bullying around me and see something different. … Every day online, people – especially young people who are not developmentally equipped to handle this – are so abused and humiliated that they can’t imagine living to the next day,” Lewinsky told the crowd.
Lewinsky revealed that Clementi’s story had a deep effect on her mother, who was reminded of a time she feared Lewinsky might be “humiliated to death.”
“She was reliving 1998, reliving a time when she sat by my bed every night. Reliving a time when she made me shower with the bathroom door open,” Lewinsky said.
In her speech, Lewinsky called for a cultural revolution, one to end the market that has been created for public humiliation and create room for empathy online. “For nearly two decades now, we have slowly been sowing the seeds of shame and public humiliation in our cultural soil. Gossip websites, paparazzi, reality programming, politics, news outlets and sometimes hackers traffic in shame,” Lewinsky stated.
Lewinsky also made sure to address other victims of cyberbullying and public shaming, hoping to impart onto them the knowledge that they can reclaim control of their lives: “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.”
Twitter Reacts To Monica Lewinsky’s TED Talk
Lewinsky’s speech was a hit, earning a standing ovation and a flood of supportive tweets from the public. Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal producer Shonda Rhimes was among those who tweeted out messages of support for Lewinsky.
— shonda rhimes (@shondarhimes) March 19, 2015
Doooooodz, @MonicaLewinsky just killed her TED talk on online harassment so hard she got a standing ovation IN THE LOBBY.
— Lindy West (@thelindywest) March 19, 2015
Monica Lewinsky is giving what is clearly one of the best TED talks ever. I was going to write it up but am paralyzed by awe. #TED2015
— Ken Fisher (@kenfisher) March 19, 2015
— Maria Popova (@brainpicker) March 19, 2015
— Sally Kohn (@sallykohn) March 19, 2015
— Chris Anderson (@TEDchris) March 19, 2015