Monica Lewinsky is an activist in the battle against online harassment.
In 2014, after a decade long self-imposed retreat from public life, Lewinsky authored an essay, titled “Shame and Survival”, for Vanity Fair in which she overlapped personal experiences and cultural observations regarding the shift towards, what Professor Nicholaus Mills calls, a “Culture of Humiliation”. The acclaimed piece, which received over two million unique views online, was an entry point for her to begin a process she describes as “taking back my narrative and giving a purpose to my past.”
Lewinsky became known to the public in 1998, when it was revealed as part of a federal investigation that she had a close relationship with then President Bill Clinton. Overnight, at just 24 years old, she went unwillingly, from being an entirely private individual to a public figure on the global stage.
The investigation unfolded against a backdrop of a changing media landscape with the advent of both competing 24-hour news networks and the internet. With the birth of social media in recent years, Lewinsky saw the increasing proliferation of shame and humiliation online. As someone who had experienced both, on the widest scale and at a young age, she saw that she could participate in the public discourse about online harassment and work to effect change.
In 2014, Lewinsky gave a speech about the internet’s reputation shredder at the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit where she spoke from the perspective of being Patient Zero – having been the first person to have her reputation completely destroyed on-line. In 2015, she spoke at the annual TED Conference, the theme of which was “Truth and Dare”. Her speech, “The Price of Shame” was viewed nearly 5 million times in the first month of release. The speech went on to cross the 10 million view mark, making it in the top 1% of the most viewed TED Talks of all time.
In June 2015, she became an ambassador and strategic advisor for anti-bullying organization Bystander Revolution. The same month, she gave an anti-cyberbullying speech at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. In September 2015, Lewinsky was interviewed by Amy Robach on Good Morning America, about Bystander Revolution's Month of Action campaign for National Bullying Prevention Month. Lewinsky also wrote the foreword to an October 2017 book by Sue Scheff and Melissa Schorr, "Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate."
She wrote an essay in the March 2018 issue of Vanity Fair in which she discussed an instance where she used the #MeToo hashtag on her Twitter October. She did write that looking back at her relationship with Bill Clinton, although it was consensual, because he was 27 years older than her and in a position with a lot more power than she had, in her opinion the relationship constituted an "abuse of power" on Clinton's part. She added that she had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder due to the experiences involved after the relationship was disclosed.
In 2019, she was interviewed by John Oliver on his HBO show, where they discussed the importance of solving the problem of public shaming and how her situation may have been different if social media had existed at the time that the scandal broke in the late 1990s.
She is also a producer for the third season of "American Crime Story," which will portray the events leading up to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. Lewinsky will be portrayed by Beanie Feldstein.
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