My friend and law school colleague Laure Prevost wrote an excellent commentary on Monica Lewinsky’s TED talk.
When the scandal first broke out and for the years afterwards, all I could think was “What ever happened to Monica Lewinsky?” and “it must really suck to be her.” I would Google her name from time to time out of curiosity. I had a hard time wrapping my head around how one could ever bounce back from the sheer humiliation, public vilification and excoriation of one’s reputation. To have your body picked apart by the media, to be the butt of everyone’s joke…for years… I couldn’t blame her for keeping a low profile. Honestly, I would exile myself. Everyone makes mistakes and must suffer the consequences of their actions, but the consequences she endured were grossly disproportionate to the act committed…especially considering she wasn’t the only person involved… not to mention the issues of politics and power which were surely at play — if only in the background.
Now, I have to say that Monica Lewinsky inspires me. Instead of hiding under a rock for the rest of her life (as I’m sure many people wanted her to do and she may have been tempted to do), she has decided to re-write her own narrative, become her own heroine and pen the ending to her own story. I’m not convinced that she’s coming out now because she has a vendetta against Hillary. Like she said, she’s speaking out because, “It’s time.” By owning her humiliation, she transforms it and acts from a place of power. That’s brave. That’s inspiring. Her unique situation has given her a monumental platform. Besides Brene Brown, I can’t think of a better spokesperson for shame.
This talk is worth a listen and Laure’s post is worth a read.
Did you know that humiliation is a more intensely felt emotionthan either happiness or even anger? This should come as no surprise in the light of the rise of cyberbullying. For Monica Lewinsky, “[c]ruelty to others is nothing new,but online, technologically enhanced shaming is amplified, uncontained, and permanently accessible.” The echo of embarrassment extends to the online community where millions of people, anonymous or not can take a stab at someone.
To understand the gravity of the free-for-all shaming, consider the following exercise:
Imagine walking a mile in someone else’s headline.
Image making a mistake and being reminded of it online every day.
How did it feel? Did your heart sink? Did your gut twist and turn to knots? Did your shoulders tighten? Perhaps…
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