Monica Lewinsky or How you contribute to public shaming

Monica LewinskyThis post is a reaction to a recent TED Talk about the danger of public shaming by Monica Lewinsky (the woman made famous in 1998 after having an “inappropriate relationship” with then US President Bill Clinton) .

It doesn’t matter if:

  • You are Muslim and you believe she’s a slut who was intimate with a married man and that’s a sin she should be killed for
  • You believe she’s using her fame to do propaganda for herself, play the victim, benefit from the upcoming US elections featuring Hillary Clinton, and earn money out of it

You can learn something from what she said in that talk:

  • “Like me, at 22, some of you may have taken wrong turns and fallen in love with the wrong person.”
  • “I was Patient Zero of losing a personal reputation on a global scale almost instantaneously.”
  • “Too many parents have learned of their child’s suffering and humiliation after it was too late.”
  • “The more shame, the more clicks. The more clicks, the more advertising dollars.”
  • “We need to communicate online with compassion, consume news with compassion, and click with compassion. Just imagine walking a mile in someone else’s headline.”
  • Quoting Brené Brown: “Shame cannot survive empathy.

I invite you to ask these questions (secretly) to yourself:

  • If I happened to make a mistake at 22 years old, would I want everyone on Earth to keep making fun of me because of it until I’m 70 years old?
  • If there was something about myself that I am not satisfied with, that I’m ashamed of (my look, my grades at school, my level of intelligence, my country of origin, something I did that does not correspond to my religious beliefs or personal convictions), how would I feel if people ridiculed me about it publicly on Facebook?
  • When is the last time I made fun of someone, called them a funny name, or insulted them (publicly or in a private discussion) for something they may have no control over? Could the feeling of shame lead that someone to attempting suicide if many people ridiculed them publicly in the same way?

If you have to take away only one message, let it be this: “To become an upstander means, instead of being bystander apathy, we can post a positive comment for someone or report a bullying situation.” (Yes: if you’re in Morocco for example you can’t report a bullying situation, but you can still post a positive comment!)

Be an upstander 🙂

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