On Wednesday, October 19th, Emily Lindin visited Southern New Hampshire University to present her movement, The UnSlut Project. Seeking to raise awareness and put an end to slut-shaming, or sexual bullying, her project is part novel, documentary, blog, discussion forum, and much more.
Slut-shaming is an ongoing issue that has recently gained momentum in the public eye. In 2015, supermodel Amber Rose founded The Slut Walk, a series of protest marches that aimed to put an end to rape culture. Netflix recently released a documentary called Audrie & Daisy, which shares the heartbreaking stories about the impact of sexual assault and bullying on young women and their families.
Slut-shaming, however, isn’t anything new. In Lindin’s novel, Unslut : A Diary and a Memoir, she shares unaltered excerpts from the pages of her own diary written between the ages of 11 and 14.
When I discovered that Emily Lindin was presenting to my college campus, I knew I had to meet her and learn more about her mission, something that she is truly so passionate about. By posting this interview, I hope that I, too, can make a difference through my writing and raise awareness about an issue that is important to me.
LISA: Tell us a little bit about your project and how exactly it began. How did your own personal experiences, beginning at a young age, trigger this movement?
EMILY: When I was about twenty-six years old, I was in the middle of receiving my PHD and living in Santa Barbara. While I was loving my life, I realized I had been seeing a bunch of different headlines and news stories about girls committing suicide. They were being sexually harassed by their classmates, or in the worst cases, they were being sexually assaulted and had been labelled as a “slut.” It reminded me of my childhood. I realized that what happened to me in the late 90s was still happening to girls today and there is this whole other layer of the internet that has made it a lot worse.
LISA: You kept a diary where you expressed your emotions in regards the bullying and harassment you endured. Do you believe that your writing helped you to cope? Have you always considered yourself a writer?
EMILY: Definitely. The first place I shared my diaries as an adult was on WattPad, which is a community of young writers, many of whom are adolescent girls. I thought my diaries would not only reach them with their content and message, but as a demonstration on how you can write through trauma.
When I received feedback on my middle school diaries, I found that many people were surprised that it was written by an eleven-year-old girl. I have become a good writer because I practiced so much and developed that skill. I have been able to transform my writing – something that I used as a coping mechanism and distraction – into a career.
LISA: Your story can resonate with readers everywhere, especially young girls who are being bullied. What’s even more amazing is that you journaled these emotions, and now you can reflect on them. If you could go back in time and tell yourself one thing, what would it be?
EMILY: It would be to stop worrying about other people’s opinions of me. Eventually, I got to define myself and other people adjusted to that reputation I decided to have, which is not “just a slut.”
LISA: What power do you think your writing, particularly the publication of your book, Unslut: A diary and a Memoir have in sharing your story? What kind of statement do you hope to make, not only for young girls and women, but people of all genders and ages throughout the world?
EMILY: The most powerful story I heard was the impact of a mother sharing my book with her daughter. I heard first from the mother, who came to a book signing. Then, weeks later, I got an email from whom I later found out was her daughter. In sharing the book, the mother and daughter started a conversation. I would like to see relationships become strengthened and supportive, whether it is between a mother and a daughter, a teacher and students, or a group of friends.
LISA: What advice do you have for parents and what can they take away from your book?
EMILY: Parents often ask me, ”What can I do for my daughter?” But if you ask this question, you are on the right track because a lot of parents don’t even believe this is an issue. Parents should lay the groundwork early by having ongoing conversations with their children as soon as they become curious about anything with their bodies or sex.
LISA: Further embracing the power of your writing, you have created a movement that embodies the passion you have for the cause. How important do you think it is for writers to be passionate about what they write?
EMILY: If you are writing about what you are passionate about, then the right audience will find it. People could tell that I was so vulnerable and that I cared so much about what was at stake, and young girls could find what I had written and connect with it.
LISA: How do you plan on further progressing your movement and its outreach?
EMILY: I spoke at Amber Rose’s SlutWalk on October 1st. I continue to speak at schools throughout the US and Canada and do workshops with middle schoolers and high schoolers. (Side note: Emily will be making an exciting official announcement soon about a further development in the UnSlut Project!)
LISA: Do you plan on writing more books in the future?
EMILY: I might. The UnSlut Project is becoming a lot less about me as a leader, and more about you- everyone who is getting involved and making change in their communities.
LISA: How can people get involved in your movement?
EMILY: The most important ways are to share your story through the UnSlut Project website and to also start conversations with people who are in your everyday life. Take every opportunity to note slut-shaming when you see it, and call them in to the conversation. I also encourage people to connect with me and spread the word through social media.
Powerful and moving, her words and presentation made myself and my peers stop and think. What can we each do as individuals to create a society where everyone feels comfortable to be their selves? How can we empower one another and respect one another? How can we thrive from this empowerment?
Purchase “Define Slut’ T-shirt – a great conversation starter!
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