"At the age of 22, I fell in love with my boss..."
March 21, 2015 10:10 AM   Subscribe

"...and at the age of 24, I learned the devastating consequences." Monica Lewinsky takes a look at our “culture of humiliation” from the TED stage. (previously 1, 2, 3)
posted by Hot Pastrami! (71 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
 


So, I'm wondering how much of Lewinsky's sudden increase in visibility is due to the fact that Mrs. Clinton is going to be officially running for President soon.

...and then I start to think I'm being too paranoid.

...and then I remember the Edward Snowden and realize that there's no such thing as "too paranoid."
posted by percor at 10:31 AM on March 21, 2015 [33 favorites]


So, I'm wondering how much of Lewinsky's sudden increase in visibility is due to the fact that Mrs. Clinton is going to be officially running for President soon.

Why not watch the video to get her answer on this? She addresses it at the end.
posted by asockpuppet at 10:41 AM on March 21, 2015 [14 favorites]


I don't buy that "it has nothing to do with politics." Because of what happened to her, unfortunately, she is a political figure. The best intentions in the world do not change that.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:47 AM on March 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


Oh boy, the comments on that #2 previously. Not our finest moment. Also seems to go against some of what she said in this TED talk.

More power to her for trying to use her situation to stop online bullying and shaming.
posted by cashman at 10:55 AM on March 21, 2015 [8 favorites]


I was... younger... during the heyday of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. I haven't really thought much about it since then (that is, aside from wondering if the effect it had in sidelining Clinton in the 2000 election was one of innumerable straws breaking the back of Gore's chance at the white house).

The whole ordeal seems surreal now. Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton became main stream pop icons via a sex "scandals." 22-24 seems so young now, and recasts the ridiculous power disparity between the two in more absolute terms. The fat jokes on SNL seem more so gratuitous.

I don't have anything really intelligent to say. Plenty of comedians have commented on the absurdity of the enormity of fame achieved through a blow job solely due to it occurring in the oval office.

The whole thing is so bizarre. That is all.
posted by midmarch snowman at 11:04 AM on March 21, 2015 [12 favorites]


I hope everyone listens to this speech. I found it insightful and deeply moving.

Watching this talk was the first time I realized she was 22 during the affair and 24 when the scandal broke. I was 13 at the time and to me adults were basically all the same in terms of self-actualization and power to control their own story. So I'd absorbed the idea that she was a joke and kind of a bimbo, lumping her in with reality TV stars and the type of person who attempts to make a career out of five minutes of fame. This talk was the first time it really hit me how young she was at the time, how completely unprepared for the media circus, and how much she didn't want any of it. I feel ashamed I never questioned that cultural narrative.
posted by schroedinger at 11:08 AM on March 21, 2015 [101 favorites]


Oh boy, the comments on that #2 previously. Not our finest moment. Also seems to go against some of what she said in this TED talk.

Jesus. Times have changed.
posted by schroedinger at 11:10 AM on March 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


Oh boy, the comments on that #2 previously. Not our finest moment. Also seems to go against some of what she said in this TED talk.

Holy Christ that thread is absolutely disgusting. I'm retroactively ashamed for MeFi - boyzone indeed.
posted by dialetheia at 11:37 AM on March 21, 2015 [23 favorites]


So she made a bad decision and was trashed all around.

But I don't really associate her situation with the type of "cyber bullying" that has lead to a lot of tragic situations with teenagers.

It kinda rubs me the wrong way that she's claiming to be the same kind of victim.

Was she a victim? Absolutely. Her boss totally took advantage of her. I can't think of a larger power imbalance (at 22). But associating that with the horrible trend (and consequences) of cyber bullying is kinda disengenuous.

It's great if people can use their fame and name to stamp out horrible stuff. But this seems kinda like jumping on a bandwagon when she said that there wasn't a name for what she went through back then, but now it's know as cyber bullying. That's when I stopped watching.

Not true. She was humiliated, but not cyber bullied. It was unfair that she got the raw end while Clinton ended up pretty ok. But she did NOT go through what can be referred to as cyber bullying back then.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:45 AM on March 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


But I don't really associate her situation with the type of "cyber bullying" that has lead to a lot of tragic situations with teenagers.

Unfortunately, bullying happens to people well past their teenage years. There is a broad trend of online harassment, one aspect of which is to regularly conflate the two long-established processes of creation and humiliation of celebrities. We live in a culture where it is now relatively common to be a public figure solely through experiencing a public fall from grace. I think that Lewinsky's experience is a significant point in the timeline of this developing cultural trend. The technology did not create this particular process of humiliation, but it increasingly serves to facilitate it.
posted by howfar at 12:03 PM on March 21, 2015 [11 favorites]


But she did NOT go through what can be referred to as cyber bullying back then.

I would differ with that. I'm two years younger than Lewinsky, and a woman. In 1998, I had been online for 9 years and on the web for 4. She calls herself "Patient Zero" and is pretty clear that back then there wasn't a name for what she went through; she is correct. It was cyber bullying.

Bullying doesn't just target the claimed target. It also targets those who resemble the target. In this case, young women. As a young woman, I got a crystal clear message from what Lewinsky went through: do not ever act on my feelings for a man in the workplace. Ever. In any way. Hell, to this day I hardly dare admit to myself that I have the occasional secret office crush; it feels extremely dangerous.

I remember her beret photo. I actually liked it; I've always admired how strong and dignified she is, but then I've never been one to take to heart popular discourse about others' appearances or character. But I remembered that discourse nonetheless, and understood, intimately, deeply, that as a woman, it also applied to me, and to other women.

Thanks for posting this talk – it's eye-opening for me as well to re-realize, as a woman nearing 40, deeper aspects of the power differential that I didn't/couldn't comprehend as a young 20-something. It's also wonderful to see Lewinsky as herself.
posted by fraula at 12:08 PM on March 21, 2015 [44 favorites]


There is a broad trend of online harassment, one aspect of which is to regularly conflate the two long-established processes of creation and humiliation of celebrities. We live in a culture where it is now relatively common to be a public figure solely through experiencing a public fall from grace. I think that Lewinsky's experience is a significant point in the timeline of this developing cultural trend.

This just opens up how Tswift was bullied by Kanye on stage. And then John Mayer was bullied by Tswifts songs about him. And then now Kanye is cyber bullied by Glastonbury.

And then everyone is cyber bullied and knows exactly what its like for a lonely teenage kid to be staring at his computer and thinking that suicide is an out because of how they are treated online which creeps into the only real life they know (school). I don't agree with that AT ALL.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:10 PM on March 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was 13 at the time and to me adults were basically all the same in terms of self-actualization and power to control their own story. So I'd absorbed the idea that she was a joke and kind of a bimbo, lumping her in with reality TV stars and the type of person who attempts to make a career out of five minutes of fame. This talk was the first time it really hit me how young she was at the time, how completely unprepared for the media circus, and how much she didn't want any of it. I feel ashamed I never questioned that cultural narrative.

I'm basically her age and I didn't much question that narrative at the time, either. In the NYT piece she comes off as incredibly thoughtful; I wish at least a little bit of nuance had made it through to me at the time. Like the author of that article, I can remember sharing around downloaded copies of the Starr report for the prurient details.

She got attacked from all sides, and even though it was only partially online I agree that it was one of the first, if not the first, harbingers of the online bullying that we see now.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:15 PM on March 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


> do not ever act on my feelings for a man in the workplace.

If that's too big for a first step, maybe try the toe-in-water approach. Do not ever act on those feelings for a man in the workplace if the man is a) married and b) Bill Clinton.
posted by jfuller at 12:20 PM on March 21, 2015


hal_c_on, if what she went through wasn't precisely the same animal as what we now call cyberbullying, it was at least the same species. And she's using what happened to her, the way she was treated by the entire media machine, to shine a light on the treatment of the very 13-year-olds you're talking about. If you care about them, maybe silencing and dismissing (you know, something that's been happening to her for nigh on twenty years now) voices that are speaking out for them isn't necessarily the most productive approach.

I'd be flabbergasted if suicide hadn't been top of mind for her every day for years.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:23 PM on March 21, 2015 [32 favorites]


So she made a bad decision and was trashed all around.

Eh, I wouldn't call it a bad decision per se. It was just something fun to do, while orbiting power. Plenty of other people have done similar or "worst" things. Ideally society would have nailed that prosecutor to the wall for bringing out such minor crap and left the clintons to figure out their marriage however they chose.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:23 PM on March 21, 2015 [26 favorites]


Molly Shannon's Weekend Update sketch as Monica was brilliant!
posted by ReeMonster at 12:26 PM on March 21, 2015


That previous thread (#2) seemed a lot like cyberbullying to me.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 12:48 PM on March 21, 2015 [9 favorites]


The good thing about that #2 previously is that it's only 46 comments long.
posted by rtha at 12:58 PM on March 21, 2015


And 13 years ago!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:58 PM on March 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, shitty, but I don't know that I'd call it bullying. She made a mistake. She was maybe tricked/pressured into it, and maybe sexual harassment at work is a factor.

But she did it, and expecting people not to talk about that is unreasonable. Bullying to me wouldn't be people talking about her, but being directly abusive to her. Rape threats, doxxing, swatting, etc.

Maybe she gets into that later? I turned off the video when it seemed like she was calling the media interest "bullying" and after a few minutes it wasn't getting any better. Just because it was no fun being talked about negatively by a lot of people doesn't make it bullying.
posted by ctmf at 1:13 PM on March 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


percor: "So, I'm wondering how much of Lewinsky's sudden increase in visibility is due to the fact that Mrs. Clinton is going to be officially running for President soon.

...and then I start to think I'm being too paranoid.

...and then I remember the Edward Snowden and realize that there's no such thing as "too paranoid."
"

I've noticed St. Reagan's name come up a few times recently, too, in a few different instances. I sorta thought a similar thing, only the fnords are supposed to be positive there.
posted by symbioid at 1:17 PM on March 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


how they are treated online which creeps into the only real life they know

Here is an actual quote from a Maureen Dowd column published in The New York Times:
I was happy to see that, with Ginsburg gone, Monica was eating less red meat -- veggie appetizers and chicken tandoori. And yet, her presence at the Bombay Club suggested the former intern was still trying to grab the President's attention, like some love-struck teen-ager, loitering outside Billy Clinton's biology class.
There are differences between what Lewinsky endured and what we now think of as cyber-bullying. The biggest difference is that one of the online forums happened to be the website of the most important and influential newspaper in the United States.

That column is one of many that Dowd wrote. It describes an encounter between Dowd and Lewinsky. After Dowd has repeatedly trashed Lewinsky in the press, they meet each other in a Washington restaurant. According to Dowd's recollection, Lewinsky asks:

"Why do you write such scathing articles about me?"

Dowd, at a loss for words, replies, "I don't know."

Unable to say cruel things IRL, Dowd then goes home and writes another mean-spirited article. "This is really hot," the article begins. "This is the story of my cat fight with Monica."

There is also an incredible lack of self-awareness on Dowd's part. Though she acknowledges that "I don't know" is a sucky answer, she also lists these should-have-thought-of-it-at-the-time zingers:
I might have told her what my mother had told me when I was about her age: Stay away from married men; they're long-tailed rats.

I might have told her that posing with fuchsia feathers and an American flag was not a smart move for a young woman in the middle of a plea bargain.

I might have told her that I felt sorry for her.
Dowd feels, in retrospect, that these are some superior replies she could have offered. None of the zingers actually answer Lewinsky's question. Instead, Dowd is writing, online, all the shitty things that she didn't have the courage to say in person. To me, this absolutely reads as bullying.
posted by compartment at 1:26 PM on March 21, 2015 [114 favorites]


I agree, Schroedinger. And maybe it's because I'm on vacation and therefore in an unusually cheerful mood, but I find it heartening that the way Monica was treated, even in that mefi thread, and the total lack of feminist response on her behalf, seems genuinely outdated now, like the bafflingly backwards jokes about women that I used to see on the black and white shows that aired on Nick at Nite when I was a kid. I feel like your thirties are the point when you can start to see progress taking place in your lifetime, even if fitfully and imperfectly. It's there, and it is good to see.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 1:26 PM on March 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


Dowd continuing to have readers and a job is one of the poorer reflections on our society
posted by phearlez at 1:30 PM on March 21, 2015 [23 favorites]


Honestly, I don't think Monica made a mistake - consenting adults and all that. Or rather, I think the mistake wasn't in the act, it was in ever trusting Linda Tripp.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:54 PM on March 21, 2015 [10 favorites]


Kanye is cyber bullied by Glastonbury

Not by Glastonbury, by a bunch of racists who signed the second petition in two weeks to make me embarrassed to be British. It's not the same thing as being a bullied teenager, and Kanye can take it, I'm sure, but expressing one's inner arsehole online is a depressing cultural trend no matter what angle you look at it from.
posted by howfar at 2:16 PM on March 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


You know what's even more humiliating? When John Goodman portrays you on Saturday Night Live and KILLS it. Monica should consider the sad fate of Linda Tripp and be thankful.
posted by Renoroc at 2:23 PM on March 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, shitty, but I don't know that I'd call it bullying. She made a mistake. She was maybe tricked/pressured into it, and maybe sexual harassment at work is a factor.

But she did it, and expecting people not to talk about that is unreasonable. Bullying to me wouldn't be people talking about her, but being directly abusive to her. Rape threats, doxxing, swatting, etc.


I am not sure how the way she was treated by the media wasn't abusive. The whole thing began with private conversations and most intimate acts being laid out in front of everyone without her consent, where she's basically the kid at school who peed their pants because they didn't want to lose their spot in line. But instead of grade school, it was the international stage. Instead of being called Pee-Pants by the popular kids and having it follow her until she left high school, she was called Fat Blowjob Bimbo by the most powerful and respected news organizations in the country and it will follow her the rest of her life and shapes how people she's never met see her. And while Pee-Pants the unpopular kid can at least go home to their family, Lewinsky was followed everywhere by news organizations who felt they were entitled to act like paparazzi and didn't find relief until she left the country. The not-uncommon mistake she made ruined her life as a direct result of the impunity the media and public felt in judging, shaming, and exploiting her. Do you think it wasn't possible for the media to discuss the case without labeling her a dumb slut?

And if we are going to limit bullying to rape threats, doxxing, and swatting, if it does not include verbal abuse, gossip, harassment, and exposure of private affairs, then Tyler Clementi and the thousands of other bullied children have not been bullied.
posted by schroedinger at 2:25 PM on March 21, 2015 [57 favorites]


pretentious illiterate, going through this post has made me wonder what would happen if this had happened today. I think in some ways it would be worse--you can believe the rape threats, the doxxing, the swatting, the scum of the internet would be arrayed against her. But I also like to think it other ways it would be better, that there would be more people defending her and demanding she be treated like a human being rather than a punching bag. As you say, the response in that thread seems tremendously wrong-headed and gross today.
posted by schroedinger at 2:30 PM on March 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think the bullying thing is a derail. I agree that "bullying", cyber or not, should only really apply when the victim is under 18, but at the same time, we don't have to disagree about Monica's use of it here. She's using it to be synonymous with "abuse", "public torture" and "disgusting national scapegoating". And she's totally right about all that. We should all be ashamed that we bought into that treatment of her whether our contribution was giggling at cheesy jokes, sending her creepy mail, or being Maureen Dowd.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:21 PM on March 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


I seem to recall Lewinsky relishing in a lot of the media attention back then. Is that me just remembering it wrong? I admit I didn't follow the story very adamantly as I just didn't care enough, but I wrote her off as a media-junkie who was enjoying that spotlight after watching her refer to the affair a couple of times on TV during that whole thing.
posted by rancher at 5:28 PM on March 21, 2015



So, I'm wondering how much of Lewinsky's sudden increase in visibility is due to the fact that Mrs. Clinton is going to be officially running for President soon.

Why not watch the video to get her answer on this? She addresses it at the end.
--asockpuppet

Yeah, right. This is a woman who became close friends and confidant of Linda Tripp, who had an intense hatred for Bill Clinton. Linda befriended her, no doubt guessing that their weaknesses would cause their downfall. She (illegally) recorded the famous 'what do I do with the stained dress' phone call where she 'advised' that she keep it.

This woman was unknowingly and easily used before. I'm not convinced that she's any more politically savvy today.
posted by eye of newt at 5:48 PM on March 21, 2015


This woman was unknowingly and easily used before. I'm not convinced that she's any more politically savvy today.

The important thing is that we've all moved beyond making uninformed, dismissive comments about her and the things she chooses to do.
posted by teponaztli at 6:05 PM on March 21, 2015 [25 favorites]


If the MetaFilter represented in link number 2 was the MetaFilter when I joined in 2006, I'd never have joined. If I'd stumbled across comments like that (even in the archives) when deciding to join, I'd never have joined.

I feel a bit sick that a place I love has harboured such disgusting misogyny.

Thank god for Jessamyn's work and the rest of the mods. But yeah, Jessamyn...you saved this place.
posted by taff at 6:36 PM on March 21, 2015 [27 favorites]


Just coming in to second fraula on feeling that even the tiniest involuntary display of affection or attraction toward an office crush, and I mean TINY, is a minefield for a straight woman. This is true even if you never intend to act on that crush. Is it me? Is it American workplace culture now? always? Not sure. But that's my experience.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 6:41 PM on March 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I agree that "bullying", cyber or not, should only really apply when the victim is under 18,

Why is that? Bullying unfortunately does happen between adults as well.

This woman was unknowingly and easily used before. I'm not convinced that she's any more politically savvy today.

Yeah, it's not like anything has happened in her life between her early twenties and early forties to make her hyper-aware and savvy about the potential for being used for political purposes.
posted by lunasol at 6:46 PM on March 21, 2015 [21 favorites]


>If that's too big for a first step, maybe try the toe-in-water approach. Do not ever act on those feelings for a man in the workplace if the man is a) married and b) Bill Clinton.

Ok, this circumstance is a little bit special because Bill was the president, but I don't see why anyone elses' marriage should have any kind of binding or restrictions on you, unless you were like, friends with their spouse. I don't think YOUR marriage has anything to do with me. Being married also doesn't mean both parties are monogamous, or that there is a problem inherently in extra-marital activity. If two people are attracted to one another and consent to sex, who fucking cares? If you're not the spouse with a problem with it, you have reason to be upset and involved. For everyone else -- butt the fuck out. If the President is raping children, then we should have a serious conversation and outrage. If the President is having sex with consenting adults, then it's none of our business.
posted by GoblinHoney at 7:11 PM on March 21, 2015


This same president signed DOMA and supported measures such that your blowjob would get you kicked out of the service if someone of your same gender gave it to you. So if that was his business then his hummers are ours. ML was horribly mistreated but I'm not going to lose any sleep over Bubba not getting to keep his dalliances to himself given his meddling in other people's.
posted by phearlez at 8:17 PM on March 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


Forty-one comments in and no-one has yet seen fit to comment on what Lewinsky is actually calling for in this talk - for people to be more compassionate in their online behaviour.

This is a genuinely radical idea.
posted by motty at 8:24 PM on March 21, 2015 [22 favorites]


I agree that "bullying", cyber or not, should only really apply when the victim is under 18, but at the same time, we don't have to disagree about Monica's use of it here. She's using it to be synonymous with "abuse", "public torture" and "disgusting national scapegoating"

What is the actual difference here? I'd absolutely define bullying as "public torture," because so often that is exactly what it is. Bullying is in many ways a performative act of dominance--it doesn't count (to the bully) if other people don't see you submit.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:28 PM on March 21, 2015 [6 favorites]



I agree that "bullying", cyber or not, should only really apply when the victim is under 18


On this week's episode of "Breaking Jesuitical" ...

Seriously, 18th birthday and under? 2 or 3 month over-under slopover period?

There's about a billion stories every day concerning elderly people being bullied, gangs bullying neighborhoods, guards bullying prisoners, etc. If it is merely language imprecision or laziness, then I would put it to you that the same applies to the 18-and-unders.

We elected a brilliant, charismatic, progressive president who also was a self-indulgent idiot.
Boo-hoo for us. She, and we, learned that office affairs become more and more fraught with danger the closer that office becomes to oval-shaped. Clinton was right to stonewall the whole thing, as it was nobody's effing business, and the only bullying that should have occurred towards he and Lewinsky should've come from Hillary's frying pan (or rolling pin,
depending upon whichever cartoon panel trope generationally applies to you).
posted by Chitownfats at 8:31 PM on March 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


I am so, so glad that she has re-appeared in the public spectrum. She is such an inspiration to me, and I think she is being incredibly heroic. Basically, I am just really touched by her story and her recent talks.
posted by likeatoaster at 8:43 PM on March 21, 2015 [8 favorites]


Motty, I'm applauding someone who has championed compassionate online behaviour in a thread about exactly that. In a place that it didn't used to happen regularly.

I try to do it myself these days, and now always have a little voice inside my head saying "How would Jessamyn approach this". I also have the voice in my daily life and from time to time when talking to my exasperating children.

Jessamyn is the living embodiment of how to make online places safe/r places for women. I wish all teh internetz (and Monica) had had a Jessamyn moderating back then. I could personally have used it in my online interactions too.

I suspected Monica must have been extraordinary....Clinton had access to so many women, there had to be more to her than the press was saying. I liked her before, I'm a fan now. And I thought she rocked the beret. I'm so very glad she's out of the shadows and reclaiming her life....and I can only whimper at the thought of what her mum was going through seeing her (young) daughter so incredibly vulnerable. Monica brought me to tears, and angered me on her behalf. The media and now social media, have a long history of demonising women.....I'm glad she lived to tell the tale. I don't think I could have survived it. Kudos to her and her support network.
posted by taff at 9:24 PM on March 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'm still horrified that she's 41, has a master's degree and is apparently/essentially homeless and jobless.

I hope some of this uh...pays off for her somehow or helps her somehow.

Also, I'm glad someone else posted this one.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:32 PM on March 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


In Germany, the term mobbing is used when a group of people harasses someone - typically it refers to trying to drive someone out of the workplace but can be used in other social contexts as well. I think it's a fine replacement for "bullying" here, for those who have issues with it. It applies to adults perfectly well - someone powerful or impressive declares someone else a target, and everyone else who agrees lines up to throw things at the victim.

We've all done it. I wonder, when we look back in 20 years, who we're going to realize were unjust targets for our current "culture of humiliation"? Or are we finally going to be at the stage where we question the idea that there are just targets?
posted by susoka at 11:26 PM on March 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


I seem to recall Lewinsky relishing in a lot of the media attention back then. Is that me just remembering it wrong? I admit I didn't follow the story very adamantly as I just didn't care enough, but I wrote her off as a media-junkie who was enjoying that spotlight after watching her refer to the affair a couple of times on TV during that whole thing.

This is one of the things I'm talking about when I say I absorbed the cultural narrative. I saw her as an attention-seeking bimbo who was banking on a chance to tell her story. I don't know whether I didn't know these things, or they didn't register, or I didn't put them together, but looking back there wasn't really any indication she wanted this or was enjoying herself. The whole scandal around her broke because a close friend of her had been secretly recording their conversations in hopes of a payday. When first confronted by the Justice Department they locked her away in a room for 12 hours, trying to break her and not allowing her a lawyer. We have a ton of photos of her from that time--and they're all of her in dark glasses, conservative attire, surrounded by lawyers/bodyguards/friends and attempting to avoid talking to any of the press. The one big interview she did with Walters consisted of Walters showing her the worst moments of the whole ordeal and pretending to be very concerned and thoughtful while she hoping for Lewinsky would have a meltdown. At the end of the interview she asks Lewinsky "So, what's next?" Lewinsky gets this look on her face like a person in solitary who just saw a sunbeam, and says she (A) wants to do something meaningful with her life, and (B) hopes one day she can find a warm, loving relationship with someone and have children together. Walters's response: "Yeah, but remember that thing Joyce Brothers said about how no guy is ever gonna want to bring home Monica Lewinsky to his parents?" Camera back on Lewinsky: sunbeam gone, and she's not only back in Hell but the look in her eyes says she's given up any hope of escape.

I think what we remember as enthusiasm was the media's enthusiasm for hounding her. We just assumed she wanted it because we're a bunch of assholes who thought if a woman has an affair it means she not only deserves nationwide verbal abuse, she asks for it.
posted by schroedinger at 2:16 AM on March 22, 2015 [63 favorites]


And if I appear to be worked up about this it's because I am. It's like you spend your whole adulthood discussing the importance of defending puppies from abuse, describing yourself as a Puppy Defender, and communing with others about devising new ways to defend more puppies from abuse. Then meanwhile every morning you walk past your neighbor beating the shit out of a litter of puppies without giving it a second thought because he'd been doing that since you were a kid, so, like, it's different, you know?

What the fuck.
posted by schroedinger at 2:23 AM on March 22, 2015 [15 favorites]


I seem to recall Lewinsky relishing in a lot of the media attention back then.

I recall her getting media savvy and being able to handle herself better when questioned. She probably did relish it a bit, but that's understandable.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:43 AM on March 22, 2015


'Relish' may be a strong word. Looking back on it now (I was a teenager then and like so many swallowed the story as presented) I might want to categorize it more of the life-handing-you-lemons-make-lemonade thing.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:51 AM on March 22, 2015


I agree her plea for compassion is radical, and the idea that this is radical is somewhat shocking.But really, having compassion towards other seems like the last thing on people's minds when clicking and commenting, and I have been guilty as well. As she puts it, money is being made off of people's shame and humiliation.

I found this talk deeply moving and I greatly admire her. I am a few years younger and remember well her constantly being mocked for being fat, silly, a slut, etc. (with accompanying awkward or unflattering photos). At that time it never crossed anyone's mind (that I recall) that Bill Clinton was any of these things for his role.

Most women can imagine the humiliation this would cause and understand why it would make one suicidal. I think she is a strong and intelligent woman and I am really glad she is speaking up. I think it will help others.
posted by bearette at 7:31 AM on March 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


As for the whole "relishing attention" thing, I think that's one example of why it's so dangerous to ascribe motivations and interior emotions to the public behavior of someone you don't know well or at all. To me, it looked like, as someone else said, she was making lemonade out of the extra-sour lemons she'd been handed.

And maybe she had someone in her life encouraging to make all those public appearances, and that might seem like bad advice, but maybe that person also could see that she was never going to be able to have a real career after this and was trying to help her set up even a tiny bit of economic security for herself.
posted by lunasol at 8:55 AM on March 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


So she made a bad decision and was trashed all around.

No, she was a young lady abused by the man in the Oval office for his own purposes.
posted by Gungho at 11:36 AM on March 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


The closest I can think of to courting public attention was a little stunt she did on the Tom Green show when she was trying to launch a handbag business. That was three years after the scandal, was a one-off, amounted to her and Green being coy about an announcement they were going to make, and garnered little attention.

She also did ads for Jenny Craig for a short while, which she says she did to pay legal fees.

I always felt bad for her. She didn't deserve to become a subject of national ridicule, much less have it follow her her entire life. In the past year, she has shown that she is every bit as intelligent as you would expect a well-educated former White House intern to be, and I suspect were it not for the scandal she would have made a mark on this world in a marvelous way. I think she still will, and if it is informed by her experiences and helps guide people through the experience of online bullying, and pushes for better, more compassionate behavior online, that's a terrific thing to work for and would be a better legacy than the nonsense she was subjected to when she was in her early 20s,
posted by maxsparber at 12:04 PM on March 22, 2015 [8 favorites]


I seem to recall Lewinsky relishing in a lot of the media attention back then.

She was very ill served by her attorney William Ginsburg. He made a point to get himself on any media outlet that would have him. He was a media hound who became a celebrity by keeping day to day happening at the top of the news cycle.
posted by readery at 12:37 PM on March 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm still horrified that she's 41, has a master's degree and is apparently/essentially homeless and jobless.

While most of the people who profited from preying on her are still being handily remunerated, mostly by a wingnut welfare system that only punishes heresy. Jonah Goldberg, for instance, served his apprenticeship working for his mother, who was the one who advised Linda Tripp to tape her conversations with Lewinsky.

She's my age, more or less. I remember when she was touring the Andrew Morton biography around the UK in the late 90s -- another example of her being ill-served by people who claimed to be helping her -- and did a signing in the local big bookshop. Our college bar manager was very much a mother figure to us all, and fiercely protective of her students, especially the young women. She went to buy the book, was surprised by how much Monica reminded her of the students in her charge, said "you know, you've been treated terribly by everyone you've put your trust in" and ended up giving her a big hug.
posted by holgate at 1:13 PM on March 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


Honestly, I never was a fan of Monica Lewinsky. At the time, I thought 22 is certainly old enough to know that what she did was, at the very least, incredibly risky, if not outright wrong. I have no sympathy for Bill Clinton either. Linda Tripp can go to hell.

But holy cow those quotes from Maureen Dowd, yikes! Made me feel a sympathy for Monica that I haven't felt up to now. She really has been surrounded by some utterly horrible people who were all too happy to use her as sport.
posted by maggiemaggie at 2:32 PM on March 22, 2015


No, she was a young lady abused by the man in the Oval office for his own purposes.

She was a consenting adult. I know the power dynamics make it sketchy as hell, but as the child of a couple who have been happily married for decades after meeting while he was much older and she was working for him I don't automatically find that type of relationship abusive just because of those dynamics. It's entirely possible she would have had no regrets at all about her actions if not for the insane media exposure and national ridicule.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:54 PM on March 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


We elected a brilliant, charismatic, progressive president

The guy who went back to Arkansas during his campaign to sign the death warrant of a brain-damaged black man with an IQ of 70 to burnish his "tough on crime" credentials?

The guy who campaigned on "welfare reform"?

The guy who made NAFTA a centrepiece of his first term?

It's kind of a sign of how skewed the political spectrum in the USA has become that anyone can describe Bill Clinton as "progressive" with a straight face.

And I don't necessarily agree with everyone saying "well, Lewinsky was an adult and she knew what she was doing"; the power imbalance involved makes the whole thing extremely icky--impressionable young woman, smitten with much older, powerful, charismatic man who is in a position of direct power and authority over her? Clinton is the more blameworthy of the two for not saying "no", which he should have done; saying "but she was a consenting adult and it shouldn't really be anyone else's business" is giving implied approval to other similar highly inappropriate relationships (between professors and students, for instance) where we assume that the party in a position of power has an obligation and duty of care to NOT go there.
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 3:14 PM on March 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


It can definitely be sketchy when there is a power imbalance, but not always. This is how she sees it:

“Sure, my boss took advantage of me, but I will always remain firm on this point: it was a consensual relationship. Any ‘abuse’ came in the aftermath, when I was made a scapegoat in order to protect his powerful position,” Lewinsky explains. She goes on to say that the abuse she suffered actually stemmed from the “global humiliation” that was driven by the persistent coverage of the affair on the internet."


It's kind of infantalizing to tell an adult they don't know if they were sexually abused or not when they have obviously had a lot of time to consider it from every possible angle.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:26 PM on March 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


It is simultaneously possible for her to have chosen to engage in an extra-marital affair and not deserved the treatment she suffered at the hands of the media and the public. Acknowledging the abuse she's gone through is not absolving her of her responsibility (and she herself emphasizes her responsibility).

A person can both commit an offense and become a victim at the hands of those punishing them. See: the USA's prison system.
posted by schroedinger at 4:20 PM on March 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


It is simultaneously possible for her to have chosen to engage in an extra-marital affair and not deserved the treatment she suffered at the hands of the media and the public.

Yeah, nobody here is claiming otherwise.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:51 PM on March 22, 2015


I didn't think you were.
posted by schroedinger at 5:37 PM on March 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I seem to recall a commentator on metafilter relishing in a decade-old snap-judgment of the victim of media attention at the dawn of the 24 hour news cycle.

I was a teenager and nerdy so I listened to NPR. I remember the relentless onslaught of NPR at the time. If you can't even catch a break on public radio can you imagine the violence inflicted everywhere else?
posted by Bistle at 10:08 PM on March 22, 2015


She was a consenting adult.

When I was 22 I did some incredibly stupid stuff, things that horrify me 30 years later. I would hate to be judged by the decisions I made when I was 22 because in hindsight, I was an idiot.
posted by kinetic at 3:19 AM on March 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


Twenty years later, I'm frequently still an idiot!

There but for the grace of God go I. Even in my forties.
posted by taff at 3:55 AM on March 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Forty-one comments in and no-one has yet seen fit to comment on what Lewinsky is actually calling for in this talk - for people to be more compassionate in their online behaviour.

This is a genuinely radical idea.


Consider a world in which everyone who wrote about someone in a public forum first imagined themselves saying it to that person's face. Consider a world in which gossip was recognized as evil.

I'm not a Roman Catholic, but I love this section from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty:

- of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;

- of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another's faults and failings to persons who did not know them;

- of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.

To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor's thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way.
(the whole "Offenses Against Truth" section is worth reading, even if you reject all the specifically religious parts)
posted by straight at 6:51 PM on March 24, 2015 [4 favorites]




People really do feel like they have a license to say any old thing in certain situations about certain people. I feel like it's more likely that these comments just caused Nadia to have an epiphany rather than that they were worse than comments about race, but at the end of the day I'm happy about their ability to delete the nonsense and let the thoughtful messages spread.
posted by cashman at 3:41 PM on March 28, 2015


I read that and thought about moderation as done on MeFi. TED's comments are primarily via Facebook, so yet another data point to suggest that the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory doesn't need anonymity in its equation.
posted by holgate at 5:30 PM on March 28, 2015


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