“Overnight, I went from being a completely private figure to a publicly humiliated one worldwide. I was Patient Zero for losing a personal reputation on a global scale almost instantaneously.” – Monica Lewinsky
MONICA LEWINSKY became the first private citizen to be humiliated online and the first woman slut-shamed into hiding. Her TED talk, “The Price of Shame,” proves that the pathway to reinvention and the reclamation of your reputation can be long, but in the crucible of torment you can even get past the threat to your own survival to become relevant, if you’re willing to do what it takes.
“… But in this culture of humiliation, there is another kind of price tag attached to public shaming. […] This invasion of others is a raw material, efficiently and ruthlessly mined, packaged and sold at a profit. A marketplace has emerged where public humiliation is a commodity and shame is an industry. How is the money made? Clicks. The more shame, the more clicks. The more clicks, the more advertising dollars. We’re in a dangerous cycle. The more we click on this kind of gossip, the more numb we get to the human lives behind it, and the more numb we get, the more we click. All the while, someone is making money off of the back of someone else’s suffering. With every click, we make a choice. The more we saturate our culture with public shaming, the more accepted it is, the more we will see behavior like cyberbullying, trolling, some forms of hacking, and online harassment. Why? Because they all have humiliation at their cores. This behavior is a symptom of the culture we’ve created. Just think about it. […]” – Monica Lewinsky
She’s hit on something very familiar to a lot of women, myself included, who have been targeted in the media, on blogs, in comment sections and on social media. It’s particularly ironic how much Monica Lewinsky and Hillary Clinton have in common at this point. Two women who have been subjected to furious insults and unrelenting judgment online from their hair to weight and well beyond.
I’ve written about the media’s penchant to craft a story out of nothing to bring eyes to the page, using Hillary Clinton as click bait, while writers indulge themselves in the latest framing of what Hillary’s doing and what she’s trying to achieve for herself. Monica Lewinsky talks about the industry that’s arisen and the money in advertising when clicks turn into cash that fuels more of the same.
Monica Lewinsky is less effective in her TED talk, which is remarkable in content, when she is culture shaming, with her most effective moments coming when she talks to parents in a foreboding message.
On “The View” this week, Nicolle Wallace praised Lewinsky, saying that she’d help her write cyberbullying legislation concerning parental liability, if she wanted to pitch Congress. Teenagers are especially vulnerable to attackers, as the tragic headlines have proven.
Wallace also suggesting that her TED talk be given to select committees in the process to get lawmakers involved to make consequences part of the social media picture.
Looking at Monica-as-a-metaphor, it begins as a harrowing journey, until a woman artist captures the essence of the power Monica Lewinsky had at the start of her connection with President Clinton, before outsiders reduced her to a punchline.
But it is Nicki Minaj’s use of Monica Lewinsky that manages to transcend the clichés. Minaj refers to herself as “Nicki Lewinsky” in 12 of her own songs. In her typically bombastic style, “Still I Rise” declares, “Sex game kinky / niggas call me Pinky / Fuck with presidents / I am Nicki Lewinsky,” insinuating that no man, no matter how powerful, can resist her. When Minaj calls herself “Young Money Monica,” she’s copping the name as a sexual disrupter, as a woman who knows the power of her own sexuality and can harness it for great wealth and, ultimately, power. It took nearly 20 years, and a woman, to truly do the metaphor justice. [The Cut]
What Monica Lewinsky omits, doesn’t want to talk about, is just how much power she had over the man who ran the free world at the moment when their affair ignited and how she willingly and aggressively used everything she had to get what she wanted.
Who can blame her?
It was gone in the first click of Matt Drudge’s posting.
Before outsiders got to her story and she fled from her own choices, there was another tale to tell and it was not just that of a woman who fell in love, but of a woman who held power over a man through the power of her sexual persona.
When a woman can’t claim her own sexuality in the light of the flame everyone can see, she gives power to the people with pitch forks. The only answer was to walk into the heat, saying, Yes, I slept with that man, the president of the United States, and it was a consensual affair. Oh, the horror of such honesty, such claiming of sexuality from a woman would have led to worse roasting.
The reason she ended up slut-shamed was because conservative men got ahold of the story and made her the villain, because a woman of powerful sexual prowess that can seduce a man has always been seen as dangerous to people who don’t believe pleasure for its own purpose is a good enough reason for seduction that’s human.
We can talk all day about the collision of what Bill Clinton, a married, middle-aged man, wanted versus what Monica Lewinsky, a woman at her sexual peak was after, which is a melodrama as old as Eros.
It cannot diminish or negate the power Monica Lewinsky had, which she has finally harnessed again at 41, but this time the story she’s telling is one of coming mid-age survival, a reclamation of her narrative that revolves around being “Patient Zero” in the new media landscape that has evolved into what she describes as a “culture of humiliation.”
Of course, she’s right.
Monica Lewinsky has edited out the salient details of how she got where she is today: The sexual persona and power of this woman when she was young made her feel invincible to the point that she used her sexuality to target and tame the man she wanted, without caring what happened to herself as a result.
Or was the outcome of potential consequences obliterated by some Cinderella fantasy?
Analyzed or rationalized, the lethality of lust is written across this saga.
In her TED talk she is finding a voice for herself as she heads towards middle-age, wanting to reimagine her choices in lessons that can help others. It’s quintessentially American that a good girl from a place of privilege would completely ignore the sexual story that other attractive young women in the sway of the power of their own libidinous carnality experience, too.
We can’t talk about that, the truth is too much; for Monica Lewinsky it still is.
I would have liked to have a chat with the young woman before Ken Starr‘s conservative junkyard dogs got to her, compliments of the ultimate Tripp wire.
The right’s war against women began in the windowless room Monica Lewinsky described in her TED talk.
Only in America could an epic story about the sexual power of a woman be reduced to lessons on cyberbullying, parents and the dangers for teens, no comment about the real culprits mentioned.
Hoping to heal everyone of their judgments and gibes, when what Monica Lewinsky should be saying is, Caring what other people say about you is stupid and will ruin your life.
Sticks and stones will break my bones
But words will never harm me.