Mimi Alford was 19 when she began her internship at the White House. She lost her virginity to John F. Kennedy just days after starting. Their affair continued for 18 months and is explicitly described in Alford’s memoir “Once Upon a Secret.” So why is Monica Lewinsky practically a celebrity and Mimi Alford is known by so few?
After a decade-long public silence, Monica Lewinsky spoke out about her story at the Forbes Under 30 Summit in Philadelphia last month. She was candid in her emotions and took pauses and deep breaths. “Sixteen years ago, fresh out of college, a 22-year-old intern in the White House — and more than averagely romantic – I fell in love with my boss in a 22-year-old sort of a way,” Lewinsky said. “It happens. But my boss was the president of the United States.”
Even though the world was “pre-Google,” as she said, the internet played a huge role in the destruction of Monica Lewinsky. Tapes were released of her conversations with her presidential lover, and things just went downhill from there.
“There was a rotation of worsening name-calling and descriptions of me. I would go online, read in a paper or see on TV people referring to me as: tramp, slut, whore, tart, bimbo, floozy, even spy.” Lewinsky said, after describing cyberbullying as feeling like “a punch in the gut.” Lewinsky went on to say that cyberbullying is worse than bullying in person; because it has no borders, you never know when it’s going to stop or start again.
I’m not saying Lewinsky was perfectly innocent. She wasn’t. She shouldn’t have done anything with the president. She shouldn’t have lied.
But Lewinsky was one of the first people to really be destroyed by the internet. Many of us are guilty of some form of cyberbullying, because it comes in all shapes and sizes. Yik Yak, probably the worst form of cyberbullying, has recently plagued APSU’s campus. The options and availability to be ridiculed have multiplied since the time of Monica Lewinsky’s scandal — including subtweeting, anonymous twitter accounts, nasty facebook posts, and passive-aggressive instagram comments — and so has the damage.
Tyler Clementi was a freshman at Rutgers University in 2010. He was just beginning to let close friends know he was gay. Knowing this, his college roommate set up a webcam in their room to catch Clementi in an intimate act. The roommate then decided that he would share that content with his twitter followers. Days later, Clementi ended his life.
Though Lewinsky is no longer college age, she is always remembered as the 22-year-old who wrecked a home that happened to be white. As college students, I think it’s time to let the Monica thing go. Take her out of rap songs. Take her out of slang. Take her name out of the same boat as words like “slut.” And while you’re at it, take yourself out of the cycle. Stop cyberbullying, because you never know when you’ll be the target.