Monica Lewinsky on Bullying, Kavanaugh, and Being Called ‘Unmarriable’

Monica Lewinsky.
Monica Lewinsky. Photo: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Monica Lewinsky has been called a multitude of cruel names in her life: Big Mac, Chunkster, Bimbo, Slut, Whore, and Tart are just a few examples that she offered up. But the one that hurt her the most? “Unmarriable.”

“I think there’s always that kernel of fear inside us that that might be true,” she told the Cut. “One of the more memorable times that was said about me left me in a really dark place in 1998. It was sort of one of those darker-day moments that I wasn’t sure I would get through.”

But she did and, 20 years after the Bill Clinton scandal, has established herself as a prominent anti-bullying activist. After releasing a PSA last year focused on unmitigated online harassment for National Bullying Prevention Month, she’s back with another campaign created in partnership with ad agency BBDO New York and Dini von Mueffling Communications. #DefytheName consists of a PSA in which celebrities — including Sarah Silverman, John Oliver, and Alan Cumming — are in high-profile situations, when they find themselves being referred to using an upsetting name they’ve been called in the past. Campaign supporters are also encouraged to change their social-media usernames to those nicknames. (Hers will be “Monica Chunky Slut Stalker That Woman Lewinsky.”) The purpose, Lewinsky said, is “about taking the negative labels somebody has given us and taking the power out of those words.”

The Cut spoke to Lewinsky at the end of a week that was dominated by the Kavanaugh hearing, during which one woman was subjected to the pressure of intense governmental and media scrutiny. “Emotionally, I wasn’t really able to watch them. I made the choice not to and also we were filming with the PSA and so I chose to really just dive in as much as I could and try to be as focused as I could,” she said. “Certainly name-calling is something that we’ve seen a lot of in the last several years but in particular in the last couple of weeks.”

When asked if she had any advice for women who might find themselves in a similar situation in the future, she mentioned looking to close support systems. “One small thing that I noticed, that I think was really one of the many positive things that Dr. Ford modeled for people, was that my understanding is that she went to Washington with about 15 friends,” Lewinsky shared. “And I think that that’s something we should all look to. I know my friends supporting me in various ways was what helped get me through things — not to compare my experiences in any way.”

Working on the PSA itself did bring some difficult times to the forefront, though. “As the time came where I needed to share what really was the group of names that I was thinking about, I realized that they all do still hurt in some small pockets, some bigger pockets of my heart,” Lewinsky admitted. “They hearken back, almost like a Proustian memory, to what you were going through. I know it sounds corny, but I was just really grateful that we were doing this.”

Monica Lewinsky on Bullying, Kavanaugh, Being ‘Unmarriable’