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Monica Lewinsky visits the Bluff for First Amendment Week



Monica Lewinsky visits the Bluff for First Amendment Week
By Robyn De Leon


Monica Lewinsky, self-proclaimed modern-day Hester Prynne at twenty-four, was the guest speaker for LMU’s 18th annual First Amendment Week keynote address. 

First Amendment Week (FAW) is a week-long event hosted by ASLMU and the Los Angeles Loyolan to celebrate the protections provided by the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The week typically involves a guest speaker that can speak to these protections, typically an activist like Jesse Williams from last year’s FAW. This year, American activist and former White House intern, Monica Lewinsky spoke on reclaiming one’s story amid new aged advanced technology and rapid consumptive media.  

Monica Lewinsky is most known for her part in the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal which entailed a sexual relationship between her and President Bill Clinton in 1998. The scandal resulted in the impeachment of President Clinton and the vilification of Lewinsky. Through this experience, Lewinsky expressed how immeasurably the media’s involvement exacerbated her trauma and because of that, the importance of reclaiming your own story to heal.

The event focused less on recounting her trauma and was framed as a moment to speak on cyberbullying and digital desensitization. Lewinsky used herself as an example of how the media forced her to be “publicly silent for a decade,” as a result of all the egregious harassment she received from the public. 

Junior women’s and gender studies major Cambria Williams praised Lewinsky for the way she was able to let her experiences be the driving force to focusing on a larger societal issue at hand, 

“She’s completely changed her narrative in an inspiring way. [...] She talked about moments where she wanted to take her own life. [...] Monica Lewinsky is a perfect symbol of growth,” Williams said.

Lewinsky compared herself to classic literary figure Hester Prynne from The Scarlet Letter. Like the protagonist, she was forced to carry around this image of being known as “that woman.” The woman who “seduced” the President, who fragmented the Clintons’ relationship, and caused chaos in the White House. Lewinsky was crucified by the public with these allegations that were clearly laced with slut-shaming all because she fell in love.

According to DoSomething.org, “about 37% of young people between the ages of 12 and 17 have been bullied online.” On top of that 30% have had it happen more than once and this increases the risk for self-harm and suicide. 

Lewinsky also shared an anti-cyberbullying campaign she produced called “The Epidemic,” a chilling short video that shows the consequences of malicious digital behavior. While the video left the crowd speechless, Lewinsky synthesized the conversation by highlighting the importance of being “compassionate for yourself” and recognizing that though the situation hurts at the moment, things will pass. 

For those dealing with or witnessing cyberbullying, check out StopBullying.gov for help.

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