Monica Lewinsky was first victim of trolling

Monday 27 October 2014

Reading about Monica Lewinsky's address to a recent Washington summit has made me realise how badly traduced this woman, now 41, was by the world's media when her affair with Bill Clinton exploded into public view in 1998.

It's also made me feel guilty; because back then, we all bought the line peddled by the media that Lewinsky was, while not the instigator of her affair with the President, somehow uniquely responsible because she was - well - a woman.

Yes, Clinton was heavily criticised, very nearly impeached, and almost brought down. But he survived, and even today his charisma and status is bullet-proof. If his wife reaches the White House during the next presidential election, as she fully deserves to, Bill will be by her side, America's first First Man, yet again one half of a world-class power couple.

And Monica? She was only 22 when, as a naïve White House intern, she 'fell in love with my boss', as she said at the summit. In the same speech, she described the pain of being turned into a figure of global humiliation. She makes the interesting point that she was 'the first person to have their reputation completely destroyed worldwide via the internet.'

There was no Twitter then, but the sex scandal was given massive global coverage fuelled by the then-embryonic on-line gossip sites. Lewinsky calls that 'a viral phenomenon that, you could argue, was the first moment of truly "social media".

Yes, Monica says she was the first women to be trolled. And it's made me feel ashamed, because do you remember how we all mocked Lewinsky when at the tender age of 25, she was revealed as the other woman in the biggest sex scandal in the world? We mocked her face, her weight, her goofy smile. Most of all, we sniggered at this young woman because of the nature of her liasons with the President: oral sex in the Oval Office, the blue dress stained with his semen, the salacious jokes about Clinton's cigar, and his self-righteous lie that he 'did not have sexual relations with that woman'. In Clinton's mind, what they did was not 'sex'; according to him, only penetrative intercourse constituted sex.

Oh how the media snickered. And of course, he got away with it, while Monica's life was ruined, trashed by an avalanche of testosterone-fuelled innuendo. She now says that during the whole episode, she had one relentless mantra in her head: 'I want to die.'

We women were just as bad. We saw Monica not as a victim but a sleazy figure of fun. Why didn't we, especially those of us with daughters, acknowledge that this young woman was taken gross advantage of, used as a plaything, and then cast aside unprotected and undefended by the most powerful man in the world?

Monica Lewinsky was the first victim of the social media trolling that plagues us today. She has never recovered from the humiliation. I'd like to apologise to her.

Sorry, Monica. We let you down.

Continue reading Judy's Happy honeymoon and baby came too.
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  • Yes we did let Monica down but not only her but ourself as woman. I look forward to your rise Monica as a phoenix out of the ashes and surpass the bias placed upon woman.

    Ilse