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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Remember that girl we bullied in 1998, Monica Lewinsky? Have you apologized to her yet?

1998 seems like a hundred years ago. I was in my early 30s and working in radio when the story of the Monica Lewinsky affair with Bill Clinton broke. We never saw the likes of it before. It was the start of a cultural change and the start of cyber-bullying and online harassment.

I just watched her Ted Talk and I highly recommend you do too

It’s titled, “The Price of Shame.” How fitting.

She was a 22 year old intern who fell in love with her handsome, powerful and charismatic boss, The President of the United States. Her na├»ve outlook on love had devastating consequences for her. 

22 years old! My God, my son is 20. I live in fear of one of my children becoming the victim of online shaming.

I can only imagine what her parents went through. In the Ted Talk she reveals her mother made her shower with the door open to make sure she did not kill herself. There are almost 40 Rap songs that reference her affair with Clinton. Few actually mention Clinton.

When people hear the name “Monica Lewinsky” they will always think “Blow job.” When they hear the name “Bill Clinton” they will always think President of the United States. How fair is that?

She will always wear the Scarlet Letter and her name will be followed by: slut, whore, bimbo, tart or “That woman.”

He will always be “Mr. President.”

She was 22. He took advantage of her.

She refers to herself as “Patient Zero” of cyberbullying. In 1998 when the story broke, it was the first time a major news story played out online as well as the traditional news media. The internet became a mob of stone throwers as the Monica Lewinsky story reverberated around the world.

At 22 she became a global whore. Billed as the first woman to have sex with her boss. He was still “Mr. President.” Wait! Oh that’s right “He did not have sex with that woman!”

That woman! At 22 she became that woman.

At 22 she began to live a life of public, worldwide humiliation. Her life stopped. The possibilities that her future held, ended. At 22 she no longer had a future because she had sex with her boss.

What frustrates me the most is that I took part in it. You did too. We all told the Monica Lewinsky jokes. We listened to them. We still think “Blow job” instead of “victim” when we hear her name. Over time, we became numb to these jokes because she wasn’t a real person to us. We didn’t think about a 22 year old on suicide watch. We didn’t think about her mother crying every night and her father’s helplessness as he watched his little girl’s life destroyed over a blow job. We could recognize her face because we saw it every day on the internet or in the media. We didn’t know she had a soul. We didn’t think about her feelings. We didn’t have empathy or sympathy for her.

We almost humiliated this girl to death.

Eighteen years later public shaming has become an industry. Celebrities and reality stars traffic in it. But she was different. She didn’t release a sex tape. She didn’t want to be famous for a sex act.

She was 22. I fill up just thinking about her and what she went through.

Hillary Clinton wants to be President now. I cannot find anything on line that says that she met with Monica Lewinsky and forgave her for her role in the affair.

Should she? Should the wife forgive the mistress? I think it depends. How long is she going to continue to nail this poor girl to the Cross?

Bill Clinton has never apologized to her. He took advantage of a 22 year girl. He abused his power. He was President. To put it in perspective four years earlier Monica was in high school.

At 22 I made mistakes. Lots of them. That’s what 22 years old do. They make mistakes and they learn from them.

She didn’t commit a crime. She fell in love… at 22 with a handsome, powerful, charismatic man. Her boss.

I apologize.

I am sorry Monica for reading those jokes, repeating them and sharing them. I had no idea you were a real person. I got caught up in a public, slut shaming mob and I didn’t know we almost drove you to your death.

Monica is now an advocate for people who are victims of cyber-bullying and on line harassment. Who better than her?

She is no longer a “victim” but a “survivor.”

How do we change it?

In her Ted Talk, Monica says stop reading online shaming and humiliation. Every time you click on an online shaming story about the Kardashians, the provider of that content makes money. The more clicks, the more money. Shame is now an industry and a big one.

She says “Public shaming as a blood sport has to stop” and she is right.

We all need to build a circle of protection around this lady. She has suffered enough. The next time I hear Monica Lewinsky’s name said in a derogatory way I will respond with “Did you know she was only 22? Did you know she was victim? Did you know she is human?”

I will not click on public shaming stories about celebrities or participate in internet mobs that destroy lives. Ask yourself “What if this was my daughter? How would I feel?”

She is right. Public shaming as a blood sport has to stop.
It stops with you.