The Price of Shame

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How the LGBT community moved Monica Lewinsky into action

Monica Lewinsky at TED 2015

In 1998, White House Intern Monica Lewinsky became “patient zero of losing a personal reputation on a global scale.” Yes, she made a mistake. She fell in love with her boss. But at 22 years old, how many of us didn’t make a mistake or do something that we regretted? And in the subsequent years, she has been reminded daily of that mistake. One she regrets deeply. It took her reputation, her dignity, her name and nearly her life. Could you truly live through each day as she has?

A few months ago, she emerged as a speaker at the Forbes 30 under 30 to share her story for the first time. But why now? Surely the worst of it is behind her? In the past 17 years numerous scandals have created and fueled our collective lust for public shaming and hurtling our opinions at complete strangers online.  The bigger the name, the more the clicks. The more the clicks, the more the advertising revenue.

“But in this culture of humiliation, there is another kind of price tag attached to public shaming. The price does not measure the cost to the victim, which Tyler and too many others, notably women, minorities, and members of the LGBTQ community have paid, but the price measures the profit of those who prey on them.”

It was the story of Tyler Clemente that stirred Monica and her mother into action. In September 2010, this young Rutgers student was secretly webcammed by his roommate while being intimate with another man. This deeply personal discovery of sexuality was now thrust into the public sphere for comment and the cyberbullying commenced. Too much for him to overcome, Tyler leapt to his death from the George Washington Bridge. The world lost sweet, sensitive and creative Tyler Clemente at only 18 years old for simply expressing and exploring love the only way he knew.

Monica Lewinsky’s mother was shaken by the news – so much so that it started a conversation between the mother and daughter discussing the dark days of Monica’s own public humiliation, something no parent should ever have to witness. She was not allowed to be alone even having to shower with the door open for fear of her hurting herself.

The women discovered that in our age of increasing profitability of shame and humiliation, it is no longer enough to be a bystander. Few of us propagate such content, but far more of us stay silent on the sidelines not speaking up, not standing up for what is right.

“But in this culture of humiliation, there is another kind of price tag attached to public shaming. The price does not measure the cost to the victim, which Tyler and too many others, notably women, minorities, and members of the LGBTQ community have paid, but the price measures the profit of those who prey on them. This invasion of others is a raw material, efficiently and ruthlessly mined, packaged and sold at a profit. A marketplace has emerged where public humiliation is a commodity and shame is an industry.”

It is no longer enough to simply not engage and be a bystander. Become an #upstander.


 

Story by Lynn Yeldell
L Style G Style – Storyteller of the Austin LBGT Community.
#GetToKnowUs

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