“I was branded as a tramp, tart, slut, whore, bimbo, and, of course, ‘that woman.’ I was seen by many but actually known by few. And I get it: it was easy to forget that ‘that woman’ was dimensional, had a soul, and was once unbroken.”
Monica Lewinsky, a woman who found herself at the epicenter of a media maelstrom in 1998 when she was just 24-years-old, gave a candid and brave talk at the TED2015 conference last week and had us hanging on her every word. What she said is important, it is relevant, and should give everyone great pause. This is not something to miss.
Over her 20 minute speech, the now 41-year-old, revisited the painful details of the public shaming she received almost two decades ago. Despite news being largely limited to newspapers, magazines, the radio, and television back then, she says, “I was Patient Zero of losing a personal reputation on a global scale almost instantaneously.”
We talk a lot about our right to freedom of expression, but we need to talk more about our responsibility to freedom of expression. We all want to be heard, but let’s acknowledge the difference between speaking up with intention and speaking up for attention.
She goes on to connect what she experienced then to today’s online “culture of humiliation,” where the public shaming and personal harassment she went through has become constant and has reached an unimaginable level. It’s an epidemic and can turn deadly.
Now a social activist with a Masters in Social Psychology from the London School of Economics and Political Science, Monica takes a hard look at all of this through her very personal lens, and advocates for a safer and more compassionate social media environment.
“There is a very personal price to public humiliation, and the growth of the Internet has jacked up that price.” She adds, “Public shaming as a blood sport has to stop.”
Direct link to interactive transcript of her TED2015 talk.