A Mass. native is taking her anti-slut-shaming movement to Amherst and South Hadley this weekend

Emily Lindin of The UnSlut Project wants to have a conversation about sexual bullying.

Emily Lindin with her published diary. —The UnSlut Project Facebook

On Friday, Emily Lindin will speak at Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley about trauma in young women’s lives. Revisiting South Hadley will be hard for Lindin, but also meaningful—South Hadley is where student Phoebe Prince killed herself in 2010 after intense bullying, prompting Lindin to think about how she could participate in the conversation surrounding sexual bullying, specifically.

Fifteen-year-old Prince had been new to South Hadley; her family moved to the tiny Massachusetts town from Ireland in 2009. After getting involved with a senior guy who then reunited with his on-again-off-again girlfriend, Prince was attacked by her classmates. They called her an “Irish whore’’ and would spat “I hate stupid sluts’’ when she walked by, authorities said.

Advertisement

Lindin, a Massachusetts native, will visit South Hadley to discuss the issues she addresses in what she calls the UnSlut Project. The project started out as a blog where Lindin, now 30, would post old diary entries from when she was sexually bullied during middle school. She said it’s now a movement.

“I was 27 and halfway through a Ph.D. in music history and felt like my life had turned out wonderfully despite what I went through in middle school,’’ Lindin said. “I was inspired by the It Gets Better project, and I was thinking to myself, when you’re sexually bullied, called a slut, and labeled, it’s isolating. You can’t have confidence that adults in your life will be in your side.’’

Lindin wanted to create a space where girls could share their experiences and know that they weren’t alone, so they could “be what they wanted to be rather than what people labeled them,’’ she said. And she had a primary source from her years of being bullied: her diary.

“It was like an invitation to women who’ve gone through something similar, who survived this too,’’ Lindin said of sharing her diary entries. “Women all over the world, all age groups and ethnicities, were wanting to speak out on something they went through. The UnSlut Project grew organically from that.’’

Advertisement

Though she previously never had any plans to be an activist, Lindin felt that it was necessary to call for some kind of cultural change. While she remembered being called a slut in middle school, she had forgotten how strongly it affected her at the time until she reread her diary. That was unnerving to her.

“The most rattling was how I had internalized it, kind of believing that I had deserved that reputation [at the time],’’ Lindin said, “that I was kind of a malicious and sexually depraved child, and I brought it on myself.’’

Now Lindin says she knows that those names weren’t tied to her worth, and she hopes young girls who don’t currently have that perspective will learn that through the UnSlut Project.

That’s only one of the movement’s purposes, though. The other is to start a conversation with the people who participate in slut-shaming. Lindin made a movie, UnSlut: A Documentary Film, that comes with a discussion guide. It was recently screened at the International Bullying Prevention Association’s annual conference, but Lindin said she’s faced barriers when trying to screen it in high schools, mostly around b-roll footage of a condom being put on a banana.

Dr. Patricia Agatston, Ph.D., is a licensed professional counselor and president of the International Bullying Prevention Association. She said that educators often look to the organization for what it is they should be addressing regarding bullying in schools, and though the documentary screening was well received by the educators who attended the conference, a few of them didn’t think that banana-condom clip would be OK’d by administrators.

Advertisement

With that kind of barrier to conversations around sex, Lindin said, it’s “not surprising that kids grow up sexually bullying each other, that kids grow up learning from adults that sex is shameful, hushed up, immoral, and dirty.’’

So Lindin hopes to make sex a more accessible topic in classrooms with a film series that includes interviews with women who have been sexually bullied paired with discussion guides. Agatston said this may help counteract prevalent double standards like the social norm that it seems OK for guys to be sexual, but not necessarily girls.

In the meantime, Lindin continues to travel around and join as many conversations as she can. After the bookstore event, she’ll speak in Amherst on Saturday as part of a media literacy panel for the Women of Isenberg Conference. Register for that event here.

Jump To Comments