Lessons We Can…Correction…Must Learn From Monica Lewinsky

The internet has been all abuzz the past several days with news about Monica Lewinksy. Yep, that Monica, the one who made the mistake in 1998 of falling in love with her boss who just happened to be the President of the United States at the time (aka Bill Clinton) and subsequently has been subjected to years of humiliation and shame thanks to a lot of shock jocks, late night show monologue jokes, over 40 rap songs (yes, 40) and, most unfortunately, the internet.

Did you know that the “affair” and the country’s obsession about that infamous dress was the first major news story to break on the internet? Try living that down…or, for that matter, being branded as  <insert any very negative term for a female>.

Sorry, I won’t put any of them here because
a) there is no equivalent name for a man who does the same thing and
b) I don’t ever think there is a place for name calling

In case you missed it, Ms. Lewinsky made the headlines because of her  TED Talk last week entitled The Price of Shame.  And everyone, I mean, everyone, needs to watch it.

I am making my son watch it. He was a baby when the scandal reverberated through cyberspace and has probably heard a few of those 40 rap songs. More importantly, he is part of the first generation to grow up pretty much desensitized by the internet. My job as his mother is to try to make sure he leaves the nest understanding this is not the way the world really needs to be…or at least not the way he needs to accept it.

Call me crazy but…if you have sat in judgement of Ms. Lewinsky, I’m not saying you need to forget the mistake she clearly knows she made, but try to forgive her because her message is very clear. We, as a society, must stop the insanity. You know, the right that so many think they have to humiliate and bully people, especially online and sadly, a lot of times, for monetary gain.

Public humiliation is a commodity

This past weekend I volunteered at a local fundraising event for Powerstories Theatre here in Tampa. I cannot say enough great things about this organization and their mission. In a nutshell, it is all about “opening hearts and minds”and giving people a stage to tell their story. And their Girlstories Leadership Theatre, held every summer for middle school aged girls,  “serves as the impetus to talk about important issues and to educate girls about achieving their goals and dreams”. They received the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award in 2010 and truly hope one day to be a nationwide program.

Girlstories Leadership Program participants rehearsing for the Powerstories Gift of Gala 2015

Girlstories Leadership Program participants rehearsing for the Powerstories Gift of Gala 2015

While they deserved their standing ovation, the fact that these 11, 12 and 13 year old girls have such stories of shame and humiliation to tell in the first place is so sad. And trust me, none of them did anything to deserve it. They are just the victims of insensitive and cruel kids. A program like Girlstories Leadership Theatre, though, can help any girl trying to navigate the very difficult teenage years build confidence and courage.

But we are kidding ourselves if we think the teasing, the name calling, the harassment ends when handed a high school diploma.  Some people who actually do the whole public humiliation thing for a living try to claim freedom of speech. Ms. Lewinsky, however, pointed out, “There’s a difference between speaking up with intention versus speaking up for attention“.

We all have a story, right? And while we can’t all get the opportunity to tell it as a headline TED Talk, the most important thing is, of course, to just tell it. You may still think what Ms. Lewinsky did was immoral, but humiliating her or anyone else who has seen their name smeared across cyberspace will never be the answer.

Put yourself in her shoes for just one minute and imagine what it has been like for her for the past 17 years. And then imagine what it has been like for her mother who feared her daughter would be “humiliated to death”. No one deserves that…no one.

As Ms. Lewinsky mentioned in her speech, how many more stories like Tyler Clementi, the 19 year old Rutgers student who was ridiculed and ostracized after his roommate released a video online of him engaging in an intimate act with another male do we allow to happen?

Public Shaming As A Blood Sport

Several years ago I went through a very difficult court battle with my ex-husband. We had already been divorced for a few years and what was supposed to be a very simple discussion the previous spring ended up as a full day trial the following winter. I’ve never written or publicly spoken about it before. And I debated for the past few days whether to even make mention of it. But I pride myself on being genuine and authentic and if saying this out loud and across the internet doesn’t make me very real…and vulnerable…I don’t know what will.

I really have no desire to air any “dirty laundry”, but I can tell you waking up and finding your name on the front page of your local newspaper is not something you want to have to explain to your two young children. And when the wire services actually picks up the story and you are getting phone calls from radio station morning DJs from around the country essentially using you for a laugh, I promise you, nothing ever really prepares you for that no matter how much confidence you have or how thick of a skin you have developed. My story certainly wasn’t of the magnitude that Ms. Lewinsky experienced but, trust me, it hurt…a lot.

So if you’ve been humiliated, bullied, ridiculed or ostracized, how do you want your story to end?

You Can Insist On A Different Ending To Your Story

I promise mine isn’t ending with being a victim and I hope the same for Ms. Lewinsky. Here’s to her new ending living on the internet forever as one that truly makes a difference.

That’s it for now…#BlackerOut

38 Comments

Filed under Call Me Crazy, Cyberbullying

38 responses to “Lessons We Can…Correction…Must Learn From Monica Lewinsky

  1. earlgreyhot05

    Great post. Public shaming is the new normal, which makes me quite sad. I will definitely check out her TED talk.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. rjcmjconnet

    Well said! We all have regrets, and offering true grace shows a caring and humble heart

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I did watch her TED talk an applaud her for speaking out. I don’t think the story ever would have made the water cooler if the genders were reversed. Subtle bullying is the worse kind because you can’t address it head on and the real bullying story behind the Clinton/Lewinsky story is the double standard that lives on even to today. I’m happy to say I was never one of those people to judge Monica.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree Judi and that is a whole other battle to fight. I do commend Ms. Lewinsky for taking ownership for her part in the affair and really taking the high road. She never once mentioned Clinton by name nor did she bash him. It’s his story to tell his way just like she told hers the way she did.

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  4. Something I read a while ago which I try to remember – You can’t control what other people do, think, or say. Only your reaction to it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Absolutely Sharon but in some circumstances I think the shame and humiliation some suffer from bullying, whether online or face to face is just too overwhelming for some people. Very sad.

      Like

  5. Very powerful. Your discussion of shaming and humiliating ought to be required reading for everybody. I’d forgotten that the Monica story was the first big one to hit the internet. Hopefully, no story like that will ever again get such attention but I don’t know that we can count on that. Real people telling their own stories can help.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think it will take a lot of influential people to change the direction we are headed as well as advertisers to stop supporting so many media outlets that thrive on such public shaming stories.

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  6. Beth I just love this! SO I’m going to be an ‘over share-er’ Thanks for sharing your heart!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for sharing this post regarding another series on the Monica’s Lewinsky’s approach on public humiliation following her controversial love affair with the then President Bill Clinton.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Very thoughtful commentary, Beth!

    I believe in consequences to our behaviors, but I DO NOT believe in overemphasizing and exploiting the wrongdoings of others for any reason. There is no constructive element to it — for either party.

    I hope Ms. Lewinsky is able to forge ahead in a positive way and to become an example of how to thrive and grow even when you’ve made a big, public mistake.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Wow Beth! Thank you for being open and authentic enough to share. Big lesson to look beyond people’s mistakes and give them another chance to live their lives fully (that is, thinking of Monica L)

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Awesome in this is so important I’m so glad you’re sharing this message

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thanks for sharing this. I now have a different perspective on events of long ago and who this amazing woman is sharing, talking, teaching, telling. It takes courage, commitment and conviction to really want to make a difference that has people express their vulnerability. Sad that society abuses it, sad people are bullied, sad young people feel shame but glad for everyone who speaks out and tries to do something to transform this behavior.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Beautiful article Beth. I totally agree no one, absolutely no one deserves to be treated that way. I’m so sorry you were subjected to a situation like that. You should be proud of yourself for being able to come forth and be vulnerable. I”m sure a lot of women heard you loud and clear.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. SG

    I’ve watched her talk about 3 times now. So empowering.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. hollyjeantampa

    Thanks for being so real with us, Beth. Power to you for being able to overcome that feeling of “Shame”. It’s very upsetting that the internet assists in topics to go viral, and without that individual’s consent.

    “Not a day goes by that I’m not reminded of my mistake…” That statement is so upsetting to hear… that her pain and shame is carried with her to this day.

    On another note, I’m so happy you mentioned Girlstories Leadership Theatre. I have never heard of it but am seriously happy that something like this exists as forum for young girls to speak in Tampa Bay. I’d love to partake in any future events.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I honestly can’t imagine what it is like for her to have that mistake be part of her daily thoughts so many years later. Hopefully the TED Talk will finally help her move past it.

      And as far as Girlstories is concerned, you should definitely contact Fran Powers, the founder. She is awesome and you will love her energy.

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  15. I think the way we publicize the personal mistakes of people in power is ridiculous! It’s like we aren’t engaged in meaningful work and need to consume crazy media to feel alive. I think Clinton had a personal problem that should have been kept private and did not affect his ability to govern. Monica was young and made a mistake but where is our ability to forgive and support. Thanks for being frank. I will listen to the TED talk soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Patti, you get it, I get it and anyone who has responded to this blog so far gets it. But, again, as long as there is money to be made in the form of ratings and circulation, the media is going to continue to feed the funnel.

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  16. Great blog. I agree with everything you have said.

    Like

  17. “Forgive” Monica Lewinsky? Who says we have the right to judge her at all? Or you for that matter (so sorry that happened to you, Beth). You are so right — public shaming doesn’t end when you leave high school. The bullies just get older and more vicious. Love you, girl! xxoo

    Liked by 1 person

    • We really don’t Jackie but we live in a society that for whatever reason allows it to happen to people from the time they start playing in the sandbox together at preschool. I always felt sorry for her getting caught up in what was undoubtedly a very difficult situation. I don’t think she meant to fall in love with the President, but he definitely shouldn’t have allowed for it to have happened. All blame aside, she deserves to be able to move on without that burden. As far as what happened to me is concerned, I could have really handled anything that was thrown at me as long as it didn’t affect my kids. Once that line was crossed, I honestly fell apart for awhile. My mother had just found out the morning of the trial that her cancer, which had been in remission for 7 years, was back with a vengeance so she was in no position to be the rock that she had always been for me. I was very lucky, though, to have my husband, other family and friends get me through some very painful moments.

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  18. Powerful post! Thanks for sharing Monica’s story and yours, too! Sharing our stories of shame is the path to healing ourselves and helping others to find the light, too! Looking forward to reading more of your blog.

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  19. Great read, as always Beth – you really outta add humor to your posts! LOL However, the funny (ironic) thing is that Monica gets to carry this with her for the rest of her life, but Bill… how did he get away with so much and he was guilty, just as much as Monica. It kills me, like you noted early on, about how there are so many expletives for promiscuous women, but none for men because well,, they are given a high five…. I bet he wouldn’t have gotten so much negative attention if it weren’t for Hillary either. Kills me. urgh. Well written.

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    • Yeah, Bill was definitely a very guilty party to this scandal but it shouldn’t come as any surprise that Monica carried the bigger burden through the years. Such a double standard in our society. I honestly don’t want or need to know what goes on behind anyone’s closed doors, certainly not the President of the US. I know, what about moral character, integrity, blah, blah, blah? Well, since the beginning of time leaders and politicians have used their power for things other than domestic and foreign affairs. I’m hard pressed to believe it will ever change.

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  20. I read this post some days ago. I have so much to share that words are a bit scarce now. I personally know several people who have experiences such severe shaming and public humiliation. I walked the road with them and the depth of the pain and destruction is remarkable. Kindness and compassion are so important. We must all remember that this starts at home with each one of us. Then the pressure we apply is authentic and carries much more weight.

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