Today, Bill Clinton is remembered as a former president and Hillary Clinton's husband, rather than for his political sex scandal with then-22-year-old Monica Lewinsky. On the other hand, Lewinsky has faced cruel criticism from both Americans and the media for the past 18 years. But she won't allow it to rule the way she defines herself or overshadow her own accomplishments. And by becoming a social activist against cyber abuse, Lewinsky is teaching others how to do the same.
Lewinsky has publicly spoken out against cyber bullying on multiple occasions, with her latest appearance being at the Financial Times' Women at the Top conference in London on Sept. 29. Lewinsky avoided the topic of the presidential election, instead choosing to focus on speaking out against the internet's "culture of humiliation," Fortune reported.
Her story, which she called "a click that reverberated around the world," was one of the first to break online rather than in print, on the Drudge Report, a politically conservative news aggregation website, according to Fortune. Lewinsky has since framed her narrative around the idea that her life, as well as the lives of many others, has been deeply impacted by online abuse. "I was publicly stoned," she said about the damage the unexpected publicity and internet comments did to her reputation.
After her catapult to fame, Lewinsky was suicidal for a time, but she has since harnessed her experiences to serve a greater purpose, Vanity Fair reports. After the 2010 death of 18-year-old Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers student who committed suicide after his kiss with another man was streamed over the internet, Lewinsky's mother began to relive the times when Lewinsky was suicidal in 1998, she said. At the time, her mother was "distraught" and was constantly at her daughter's side. After Clementi's suicide, Lewinsky's mother had a hard time letting her daughter out of her sight again out of fear, Lewinsky said.
This inspired Lewinsky to develop a goal of getting "involved with efforts on behalf of victims of online humiliation and harassment and to start speaking on this topic in public forums.” And her plan is to launch an "intervention" for the internet to stop cyber bullying, according to Fortune. "Online we've got a compassion deficit," she said.
Lewinsky's message is especially important today, when Republican candidate Donald Trump's campaign is using Lewinsky and other women associated with Bill's marital scandals, such as Gennifer Flowers, as talking points. This comes on the heels of Trump's degrading comments about the appearance of former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, whom Democratic nominee Hillary brought up during Monday's debate. Unfortunately for Trump, this strategy of attacking the Clintons' personal lives might backfire, as Hillary had extremely high approval ratings during the 1998 Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, according to a Gallup poll.
Lewinsky's example is one we can all learn from. She hasn't let her personal tragedies get the best of her. Instead, she's taken her painful experiences and used them to help create a better world for other people in similar circumstances.