Monica Lewinsky has a novel approach to living down her past life. For years she has run from the specter of that blue dress, tried to distance herself from the shadow of her affair with President Bill Clinton, tried to move on.
But the world just won’t let her. President Clinton himself seems to have recovered quite nicely from his impeachment for lying about his affair with Lewinsky. Only in certain circles — the same circles that refuse to remove old campaign bumper stickers — does the “Lewinsky Scandal” get brought up every time Bill Clinton’s name is mentioned. In fact, it’s pretty telling that the whole thing is always called “The Lewinsky Scandal” with no mention of Clinton.
Monica Lewinsky seems doomed to forever remain a punchline. But she is not going quietly anymore.
Monica Lewinsky has taken a new tack in recent months. It all started with her Vanity Fair piece, in which she spoke out about cyber bullying. She said that she was inspired by the Tyler Clementi case in 2010. Clementi was a freshman at Rutgers who committed suicide after his roommate used a webcam to surreptitiously view Clementi’s intimate encounter with another man, then offer to stream another encounter days later.
“Cyber bullying” is a well-used phrase nowadays. The idea of hiding behind Internet anonymity or using social media to spread bullying to exponentially more people than would have been party to it in the past is well-covered ground for educators and parents now.
But Monica Lewinsky can claim that she was one of the first victims of online bullying. Unlike her partner in that affair back in The White House, she has been pilloried online every time her name gets mentioned.
So Monica Lewinsky has decided to stop running. If being made fun of online is what her name has become useful for, she is owning it. She said in Vanity Fair:
“Perhaps by sharing my story, I reasoned, I might be able to help others in their darkest moments of humiliation. The question became: How do I find and give a purpose to my past?”
Since her announcement in Vanity Fair, Monica Lewinsky has made good on her plans.
In October, she told the audience at Forbes’ 30 Under 30 summit:
“Having survived myself, what I want to do now is help other victims of the shame game survive, too. I want to put my suffering to good use and give purpose to my past.”
She noted in her speech that many people in attendance only know of her from stories, since they were too young to know much of what was going on when she was embroiled in the scandal with Clinton.
Now Monica Lewinsky is hitting that most-revered of all intelligentsia forums, TED. Lewinsky will present a TED talk during the TED 2015 Truth and Dare meeting in Vancouver, Canada on March 19.
On the TED event website, Monica Lewinsky is called a “social activist” whose presentation will focus on “a safer and more compassionate social media environment, drawing from her unique experiences at the epicenter of a media maelstrom in 1998.”