Monica Lewinsky and the “Price of Shame”

Editor’s Note: On February 4, 2020, Roanoke College’s Turk Pre-Law program hosted speaker Monica Lewinsky.

Monica Lewinsky is most infamously known for interning at the White House under the Clinton administration, gaining international fame in 1998, after it was revealed that she
and President Clinton had been involved in a sexual affair.

Last week, students, faculty, and staff of Roanoke College were invited to
attend “The Price of Shame,” a talk by Monica Lewinsky. The talk was sponsored by Roanoke College’s Turk Pre-Law program. Stemming from Lewinsky’s White House scandel, her talk focused primarily on the influence of technology, cyberbullying, and slut shaming.

Lewinsky began by noting her experience of going to bed one night, her name known by few, and waking up the next morning a celebrity.

Modern social media sites like Twitter and Reddit did not exist in the late 90’s, however other forms of gossip sites were on the rise. Lewinsky referred to herself as “patient zero,” or a new kind of target on this platform. The shame, humiliation, and objectification she endured led to suicidal thoughts and withdrawal from the public eye for nearly a decade. Lewinsky publicly reemerged in June of 2014 after deciding to regain control of her life and narrative by submitting an essay for Vanity Fair entitled “Shame and Survival.”

Lewinsky referres to this digital era marked by her misfortune as “a culture of humiliation,” in which society has become desensitized to the effects of gossip outlets resting at our fingertips.

Lewinsky proposes a solution: a new culture of compassion, empathy, and mindfulness. She argues if we consciously practice these behaviors, we may learn from our mistakes, become more resilient, and create a society in which the distancing effects of technology do not remove us from our fundamental humanity.

Addi Lee
Contributing Writer

Edited by Claire Kivior