My book is available now (Woman Enough)! In honour of that, I’m featuring some women who I believe are some of the bravest and who deserve to have their stories shared. I want to celebrate women. Nothing more, nothing less. Here they are in their own words. I am humbled and grateful to have a small snapshot into their worlds.
My last interview with this series (until further notice) is someone who I’ve admired for years. She is the founder, author, and documentary filmmaker of ‘The Unslut Project’. Emily Lindin has toured United States high schools and colleges for the past few years bringing awareness to the dangers of ‘slut’ shaming and sexual bullying. Given that our platform is much the same, I’m absolutely thrilled she agreed to the interview. Please welcome Emily Lindin to the Woman Enough community!
Emily Lindin, founder, The Unslut Project (submitted)
Name: Emily Lindin
Please share whatever you would like us to know about yourself:
I’m an advocate for girls and women, a wife, a mother, a documentary filmmaker, and a writer. All of those identities carry a lot of wonderful meaning for me and I do my best to give them time and care. I’m best known for founding The UnSlut Project, one of the precursors to the mainstream #MeToo movement (although, of course, Me Too was launched by Tarana Burke back in 2006 before the hashtag circulated and garnered national attention). In 2013, I posted my middle school diary online without changing a word except for names, and since then I have traveled around North America sharing my personal history with sexual bullying, sexual assault, and mental health issues, and encouraging others to do the same without shame. Today I run The Matriarchy Media with my best friend and producer, Jessica.
What is ‘slut’ shaming?
Implying that someone should feel guilty or ashamed for her real — or perceived — sexual behavior.
What advice can you offer to young girls/boys who are being harassed and how they deal with it?
The problem isn’t you, it’s the people who think it’s their business to judge you and the society that allows them to hurt you. But being the target of bullying of any kind sucks. There’s no way around it. I’ve had a lot of conversations with people who have survived ostracization and shame that they once thought would kill them, and there seems to be a common tactic to get through it. It helps to spend your time and energy focusing on something healthy and fun that you’re good at, but more importantly, that you enjoy doing. I focused on studying music and writing all the time, both of which ended up leading to my academic success and helping me in my career. But more immediately, it is a huge self-esteem boost to realize that you’re able to define yourself however you choose to, whether it’s as an athlete, an instrumentalist, or something else. The point is to develop your understanding of yourself beyond what everyone seems to be saying about you. None of that matters when you know that you have a serious, worthwhile skill — it’s proof that you’re more than “just a slut” or whatever they want you to believe about yourself.
photo courtesy Emily Lindin
For parents who are trying to help their children through an incident of bullying or harassment, are there any resources you can recommend?
All parents should know about Crisis Text Line, and any local resources provided by the school or community center, and make sure to share it with their kids. Put information somewhere they can find it and go through it on their own later, too. Stop Sexual Assault in Schools is an amazing organization and their website is a trove of information relevant to the experiences of K-12 students. And Help Guide has resources related to a variety of mental health issues.
You have been all over the United States giving talks to teenagers in schools about The Unslut Project. Has the message been well received? What has been the biggest takeaway?
Most of the hope I have for this country comes from the experiences I have had speaking with high school and middle school students over the past five years. Yes, it has certainly been disheartening to learn just how common sexual assault is among young people, how devastating its consequences are, and how ill-equipped our society is to deal with the problem. But these are not new struggles. And with access to — and understanding of — new technology that no previous generation has ever come of age using, native Internet users have the opportunity to follow through on some major social changes. I see a passion for equality and an interest in activism among young people that honestly takes me aback sometimes.
photo courtesy Emily Lindin
You’ve been a true champion for women thanks to The Unslut Project appearing on national media, The Doctors, etc and interviewed by Katie Couric. How have you found those experiences? Have you noticed a new awareness in the media around the hurtful impact of sexual harassment? What has been the biggest challenge?
I feel an obligation to use public platforms to speak on behalf of those who don’t have that access, or who might not feel as comfortable speaking in front of big groups. So one thing I’m proud of is that I have spent the past five years working alongside other feminist activists, doing our best to bring conversations about sexual assault, sexual harassment, and shame surrounding women’s sexuality into the mainstream. Since last fall, it is so satisfying to see versions of the personal stories I’ve been listening to finally being heard by a wider audience and taken seriously. But it’s important not to let people’s narratives get watered down or distorted for the sake of neatness, or so there can be “good people on both sides” of any previously buried story. Now that we’ve started shouting #MeToo, we should support each other and not allow each other’s experiences to be minimized.
In these profiles, I always ask ‘what is one of your mom’s traits that you admire(d)’? From you, Emily, I’d also like to know what has your mother thought of your quest to end ‘slut’ shaming and has your mother become more outspoken thanks to your voice?
My mom sees the good in everyone and goes out of her way to make the people around her feel cared for and comfortable. People love to be near her because she genuinely cares about their lives and wants them to know how special she thinks they are. This patient, vulnerable approach to others and where they might be coming from is so brave. I hope that she sees that trait in me. I do know that she’s proud of the work I’m doing. She and I have had many enlightening conversations with family, friends, and acquaintances of all generations and I’ve heard her views grow more firmly rooted in some ways, and evolve on other issues.
Emily Lindin at Tedx Talk Toronto (submitted)
Last but not least, how do you see yourself, & how do you want others to see you?
I see myself as part of a long, wonderful tradition of change-makers who won’t stop speaking up on behalf of other women. I want others to see me as kind, brave, and curious.
For more from Emily Lindin, her website The Unslut Project is a great resource. You can also find The Unslut Project on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter @EmilyLindin.
Thank you for your voice, Emily!