|Photo courtesy of Emily Lindin|
Last spring, Emily Lindin started posting journal entries of her middle school years online as a call to action and response to an epidemic that has been diminishing the esteem of girls--slut shaming. The journal disclosed detailed accounts of her experience of being a victim of sexual-bullying (a form of bullying that demeans and shames an individual for their sexuality or perceived sexuality). This led to a powerful initiative called The UnSlut Project, a movement to inspire victims of sexual bullying as well as educate and create awareness about the topic.
With the help and support of an online community, the project has raised funds to produce a documentary film. “So we raised close to $20,000 just from complete strangers who watched the Kickstarter video and who researched the project. They felt it was meaningful enough and worth it to donate their money to help the film get made. Even though it was struggle to kind of pull those funds together, that was again such a vote of confidence. It was really, really meaningful to me,” said Emily.
The project idea was incidentally launched when Emily learned that sexual bullying had led to some suicide cases. The victims had been violently harassed by their peers after being branded a slut. Cases such as these had been occurring at an exacerbating rate and Emily felt that she needed to take action- fast. Emily had a strong connection to these victims because she remember having thoughts of suicide. Having said that, many victims lose hope and sometimes they are unable to recover. Emily wanted victims to know that things eventually get better.
“One of the ways I coped is by keeping really detailed diary entries. And also I loved writing... This was one of the ways that I kind of developed that part of my personality... I got through this time in my life by focusing on something I was good at,” said Emily.
The UnSlut Project’s writing platform puts the power back in the hands of victims. They can share their stories, and interact with the community. It’s a powerful mechanism which educates victims and those that are willing to listen. “The UnSlut Project became this movement, this online community of women and men, people of all genders, sharing their experiences either as the victim of sexual bullying or slut-shaming or as the witness to this type of thing, or just their thoughts about it... It’s this idea that by talking about it, 1) it could be really cathartic to the person that is finally putting into writing what their experience was and 2) it can demonstrate just how widespread this problem is…” said Emily.
Though many victims of sexual bullying share the same story, the outcome is usually vastly different. The efforts of The UnSlut Project plan to reach girls who feel limited by their choices. Some victims are without help, support or a proper means of escape. “One of the ways my parents helped me was by enrolling me in voice lessons and paying for activities outside of my school and outside of that environment. This project has made me even more aware of that than I was before. You know, how lucky for me that I had those resources and that I was able to go away to college... Now what if you can’t just go away college? What if you are stuck in that community and there is no feasible way for you to remove yourself from that financially for economic reasons?…How differently people experience it based on all those different factors - based on the neighborhood you grew up in, and your family’s culture. People with immigrant parents have an entirely different experience than people who are raised by parents who also grew up in America. These cultural factors play such an important role in not just the experience of bullying itself, but your options for overcoming it,” said Emily.
Today sexual bullying has reached an all new level, due to the rapid growth of technological and digital innovation. Victims are accessible by internet, mobile phones and social media. Sexual bullying has surpassed schoolyards and entered the victim’s home. Emily recalls this sort of method of bullying in her middle school days. “It was the precursor of cyber bullying... This girl who had been my best friend made a screen name on AOL Instant Messenger. The screen name was DieEmilyLindin, and she would send me instant messages from that screen name. One of them said, “Why haven't you killed yourself yet, you stupid slut?” At this point I had been able to say, you know, if I can just get through the school day, and get off the school bus, walk to my house, I’d close the door and be safe and cry by myself and kind of cope with this in private. For this instant message to pop up on my family’s computer screen, it felt invasive. The bullying was in my home,” said Emily.
Moreover, there is a growing belief that places like the United States is balancing the scale on gender. Yet, there is a sense of complacency towards this sort of violence towards women and girls. “I heard about so many stories about girls in United States and Canada where we tend to think that women have achieved equality in almost every way. These girls had been in some cases victims of rape at the hands of their classmates. And in some cases they had just been targeted as the school slut for whatever reason... These girls had decided to commit suicide because of it...,” said Emily.
In spite of the facts, many girls are being bullied in secret because they rarely feel comfortable enough to confide in their parents. Parents are often in the dark and unaware that their daughter is being subjected to these sort of horrors. In the meantime, their daughter is making decisions about how they should move forward. “A child is growing up in a household where they constantly see on TV, they constantly hear their parents, maybe church leaders, teachers, people coming in teaching them abstinence-based sex education, telling them that girls having sex is dirty and wrong. And if you have sex before marriage, you’re worthless. That message - you know, obviously they are going to turn around as kids and try to apply that,” said Emily.
Consequently, The UnSlut Project is continuously attempting to amplify its message with a mission to change the meaning of the word “slut” and alter society’s ideas about girls and their sexuality. To further their goals, Emily Lindin has sat down with Katie Couric and her TV audience to discuss cyber bullying. And most recently, she has enlightened a TEDX audience on the issue.
For information regarding The UnSlut Project, visit www.unslutproject.com
Coming up next. Follow this blog's updates for Part II of this interview!
Social Media Comments and Feedback →
@womenforaction @UnSlutProject Thanks for the interesting article! Education and awareness about this issue is SO important! #EmpowerWomen
— Felsman Fellowship (@FelsmanFellow) July 30, 2014
@womenforaction @UnSlutProject Thank you for sharing. I love learning about people that are doing something to try and change minds. <3
— Cristina Paynes (@CristinaPaynes) July 30, 2014
@womenforaction Thank you. Great article and important issue
— Kay Koplovitz (@KayKoplovitz) July 31, 2014
@womenforaction thanks that's a great piece!
— Monique Zahavi (@moniquezahavi) July 30, 2014