Monica Lewinsky fell in love with her boss at 22, was branded a “tramp, tart, slut, whore, bimbo” when found out at age 24. Now 41, she is back as an anti-bullying crusader.
Lewinsky was an intern at the White House in 1995 and 1996 and had an — what has been described as — “inappropriate relationship” with her boss, then US President Bill Clinton.
“Overnight, I went from being a completely private figure to a publicly humiliated one worldwide,” Lewinsky said Thursday at a TED talk reported in a TED blogpost.
“This scandal was brought to you by the digital revolution,” she continued. “It was the first time traditional news was usurped by the Internet, a click that reverberated around the whole world.”
“There was no name for it (then). Now we call it cyberbullying.” After the scandal, Lewinsky dropped out of public sight, studied social psychology at the London School of Economics and tried to find work, which, she has said before, was difficult.
She came to the cause of antibullying in 2010 when a Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi killed himself after a video of him getting intimate with another man was made public.
“Tyler’s tragic, senseless death was a turning point for me,” Lewinsky said, adding, “It served to re-contextualise 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 — are so abused and humiliated that they can’t imagine living to the next day.”
But her return to headlines has raised all-too familiar questions about the timing — when President Clinton’s wife, Hillary Clinton, is considering a run for the White House. “The top-note answer was and is: Because it’s time... Time to take back my narrative,” she said.