Monica Lewinsky: Sex, Power, And A Waste of Time and Money


Monica Lewinsky is moving on.

Perhaps you remember first hand reading about her affair with President Bill Clinton. Watched his lie live on TV in 1998 when he said: “I Did Not Have Sexual Relations With That Woman.”

Or perhaps you are younger and just read about it.

Either way, it was a story about sex – (that got the headlines); power in Washington; and, a waste of money. Reports revealed it cost the American taxpayers $70 million.

Lewinsky finally put her past behind her, starting in June 2014, when she published a story in Vanity Fair. In the article, Lewinsky noted that after her graduation with a Masters from The London School Of Economics, no organization would consider hiring her. She wrote, “Because of what potential employers so tactfully referred to as ‘my history,’ I was never ‘quite right’ for the position.”

Lewinsky explained later in her article that she was struck by how a separate story and real tragedy upset her mother. Lewinsky’s mother was visibly upset over the death of a Rutgers University student, Tyler Clementi, who was “outed” as gay. Tragically, Clementi had committed suicide on September 22, 2010 by jumping from the George Washington Bridge.

While Lewinsky does not equate her situation in any way with the Clementi case, it was a wake up call that she could tell her story. And perhaps other women can benefit from Lewinsky’s story.

This week, on Thursday, at the TED conference in Vancouver, she will be speaking about how she “advocates for a safer and more compassionate social media environment, drawing from her unique experiences at the epicenter of a media maelstrom in 1998.”

I say, let her speak. Those that can be helped will be.

And my advice to you as a reader is that if you don’t like her, or even can’t stand her – move on. Lewinsky is moving on.

But, the reality is that, most often, our society cannot move on. And, I am not talking just about the highly publicized cases we read about.

People who make mistakes often can’t move on in communities, or in companies. And, we label the people around us. We hear it all the time: She’s a liar. He’s a cheater. She’s disruptive. Don’t talk to him, he only thinks of himself. Our perceptions seem immobile, locked, fixed.

In doing so, people, families, and communities do not get a second chance.

Think about the community of Ferguson. Can it ever shake its image? Will it in your lifetime?

A study published by Science Daily in February 2014 revealed: “Knowledge is power, yet new research suggests that a person’s appearance alone can trump knowledge. First impressions are so powerful that they can override what we are told about people. A new study found that even when told whether a person was gay or straight, participants generally identified the person’s sexual orientation based on how they looked — even if it contradicted the facts presented to them.”

So, when we see Monica Lewinsky, how many of us can see past the story we heard to know if we really know her? Do you think in 17 years, she is still the same female intern who made a massively stupid mistake? Or is she a 41-year old woman – maybe different today?

When a colleague at work makes a huge mistake, or “acts out” inappropriately at work – can we shake that image? (I am not talking about the people that make the same mistake over and over.)

These are probing questions few of us ask ourselves – me included.

I am sure of this — if we move forward judging all those around us with a fixed perception of how a person “was,” or lock in on our first impression – it is a waste of time. And, time is money.

So, are we all flexible and open enough to give someone a second chance? I think we are not. I think most readers would not hire Monica Lewinsky. So, her answer was to recreate herself and try to make a difference for society and other women.

I have zero vested interest in her – but I say let her move on. And, I hope all of us can let others move on as well and not be engulfed by first impressions, last comments, “did you hear” stories, or how they look. And instead, understand who they are today versus a memory of years past.

If we can, we will stop wasting our own time and money.

[Photo Credit: Getty Images]

This post appeared on the LinkedIn Influencer page of Rob Wyse on March 16th, 2015 and can be viewed there by clicking here.
Rob Wyse (@robwyse) is Managing Director, New York, of Capital Content, where he advises thought leaders and writes about issues that drive economic opportunity, improve the environment, and lead to positive social change. His areas of focus include for-benefit enterprises, climate change, interfaith understanding, jobs and the economy, Internet access, and healthcare reform.