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How One Woman Overcame Slut-Shaming And Started A Movement: BUST Interview

Unslut: A diary and a Memior

For so many of us, middle school is a vague, blurry memory of school dances and angsty slamming of doors. If you are a millennial, this was a time when Ihe internet was still a mysterious place your parents were kind of afraid of. AIM was the only form of texting that existed and MySpace ran your entire social life. All the drama happened in-person or on sneaky three-way calls. The details of your sordid social life are probably cloudy or forgotten altogether, and that is how we prefer it. But Emily Lindin is here to remind us that middle school wasn’t all Hanson posters and birthday cake-flavored Lip Smackers, and she has proof — her diary.

UnSlut: A Diary and A Memoir is the uncut, unedited diaries of twelve-year-old Emily Lindin, a victim of sexual bullying and a target of slut shaming. Grown-up Emily is the founder of The Unslut Project , an initiative that aims at combatting slut-shaming and sexual bullying in schools by destigmatizing the word “slut.” The project began as a Tumblr page when Lindin was shocked to hear about several girls committing suicide after being sexually bullied. She went on to make UnSlut, a documentary film about the effects of sexual bullying that leads to self-harm and suicide.

I think we can all relate to the story in these diaries — the ever-shifting social groups, the parade of boyfriends, countless mean notes, and the quick, knee-jerk judgmental reactions of classmates in the aftermath of rumors are all pretty universal experiences. Chances are you can picture “that girl” in your school who was labeled early on the school “slut” or maybe that girl was you. Often, these rumors start simply because she developed boobs earlier than most, or maybe several boys had crushes on her. What begins as perceived sexual behavior can snowball into serious harassment and sexual bullying, which in Lindin’s case led to self-harm and thoughts of suicide — a not-uncommon practice among young girls. 

Easy A

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“When I heard stories that girls were going through something similar nowadays and a few years ago, it surprised me because it’s not something I had heard about. And at that point I thought of this is something very rare that I’ve also gone through and I have this primary source which is my diary that I should share,” Lindin tells BUST.

“But when I started putting my diaries online, I realized this is a very, very common experience and the Unslut Project as a platform and a movement was started kind of by accident because I thought I was just putting my diary online in the hopes of reaching someone who was going through something similar. But really I was opening the floodgates.”

The Unslut Project has served as a platform for ladies of all ages to come forward and share their stories of slut-shaming. Some are sharing from the trenches of middle and high school. Others are all grown up with lives and jobs and families but are still haunted by the traumatic experiences of bullying.

Emily Lindin Slut DefinitetionEmily Lindin is Sporting her Unslut "define slut" shirt she uses to call into question what we even mean by "slut" anymore.

That being said, Lindin is fully aware that her experience is shared from a place of privilege as a child of white, middle-class New England parents.

“There is this universal thread of sexual shame and internalizing it and blaming ourselves and suffering, but I wanted to be sure to have a platform for diverse stories and to amplify those women’s voices because of all the advantages I had,” she says.

As a white lady, she was able to share her story in ways that not all people have the opportunity to.  “It’s just one experience and I have that privilege to be able to share my story without being ostracized or without losing my job or putting my life in danger so I felt compelled to use that privilege,” she continues. And she has succeeded through her project to share many diverse stories from people of all different backgrounds on her blog and website. 

This book feels very important because although it is one story from one unique perspective, it is touching on an, unfortunately, universal experience that has only gotten worse for teens today. With social media everywhere and no escape from the bullying at school, there is no way to keep rumors from exploding on the internet. One moment can be captured uploaded and shared leading to years of harassment and, in the worst cases, suicide.


Slut Shaming

There is one entry on February 26, 1998, which Lindin says in a footnote she can trace all of her social problems from then on. In the particular afternoon described in this entry, Emily is at her then-boyfriend Zach’s house along with his friend Matt. Emulating what they had undoubtedly seen in teen movies, they stole some of their parents' booze and began to hook up. This is where is gets tough to read: they go to third base regardless of the fact that Emily has not given her full enthusiastic consent. “I realized it had been coerced and I wouldn’t think of it as a sexual assault, but I hadn’t been enthusiastically giving him my consent and I certainly hadn’t been talking him into hooking up with me, which is the way that he framed it,” says Lindin, describing what it was like to revisit that entry: “That really rattled me.”

Before reading her diary, her memory of that afternoon had been warped by the rumors and she believed it was her fault. “I let the way that it was framed in subsequent rumors change the way that I think about myself at that time and the whole sense I have about my middle school experience,” says Lindin.  Throughout the rest of the diary, this incident is often cited along with wistful yearnings that she could go back and erase it. It is obvious that in sixth, seventh and eighth grade Emily felt completely responsible for what went down that afternoon and the subsequent harassment and bullying.

Reading these diary entries, it is clear that preteens and teens will throw around any word and jump on any bandwagon to cling to the approval of their cutthroat classmates. You can go from adored queen bee to victim of bullying quite literally overnight. Making it difficult to expect students to combat themselves and in some ways very difficult for parents and teachers to step in as well.

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People Suck Easy A

Slut-shaming is an especially sticky wicket for administrators to deal with because discussing anything sexual in schools causes incredible parental discomfort. But at a time when teen suicides—especially those linked to sexual bullying — are becoming more and more common, wouldn’t it make sense to teach kids about the dangers of slut-shaming? By normalizing sex and sexual expression and teaching about enthusiastic consent in age appropriate ways from grade school on students would have no reason to shame those girls they perceive as “sluts.”

This is the mission of the Unslut Project: to destigmatize the word “slut” and to make the idea of a “slut” in general something dated, ridiculous almost.

“You know if someone calls you a floozy you have this sense that back at some point in history what it used to mean. But it doesn’t sting, it doesn’t hurt because it’s just so silly. Floozy doesn't have that same power that it used to,” says Lindin. “[‘Slut’ will be] a concept we used to use to label women and control them but since we’ve moved so far beyond that, and I'm speaking decades in the utopian future, it no longer has any power.”  


Emily8thGradeHere Emily is in eighth grade, rocking some seriously great sandals.I don’t think destigmatizing sexual expression and combatting sexual shaming is something that needs to be considered part of a utopian future. It is occurring right now with sex-positive movements and brave people like Emily Lindin sharing their stories in hopes of changing the narrative. UnSlut is so much more than a published diary of a 12-year-old girl, it is a primary source for the kind of intense sexual bullying occurring in schools everywhere. By experiencing that time with young Emily Lindin, we can be reminded that we all went through this time of using words like “diss,” crying in bathroom stalls at school dances, and printing out conversations with our crushes from AIM. Most importantly, we all got through it. Now we can help take some of the trauma out of this time for over sexualized and bullied girls and take the power out of the word "slut," which will probably lead to much less judgemental adults.

Pick up UnSlut and be sure to watch the UnSlut documentary on iTunes.

 

All images provided by Emily Lindin

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Maggie is a slightly visually impaired bookworm and consuer of fine Ranch Dressings. Her hobbies include looking at pictures of puppies on instagram and squealing, rewatching episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and perfecting her scarily accurate impression of a chicken. See what she is musing about at @maggiesmusingz

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