The UnSlut Project interview: Emily Lindin and Jessica Caimi talk slut shaming, bullying and their documentary film

Emily Lindin (founder of UnSlut Project) and Jessica Caimi are looking for funding to film a documentary about slut shaming in schools, the media, communities and culture. Emily revealed her experience of being slut shamed when she published her teenage diaries online. The UnSlut project offers advice to teens and is a space where we can share stories of sexual bullying. I got chatting to Emily and Jessica to find out more about Slut: A Documentary Film, the UnSlut Project and why slut shaming is so harmful.
 
 
What does Slut: A Documentary Film aim to achieve?
 
By revealing the dangerous realities of sexual bullying and slut shaming right here in the United States and Canada, Slut: A Documentary Film will inspire self-awareness in its viewers, encourage community participation in working toward solutions, and we hope contribute to a change in our societal perception of female sexuality.
 
What role does the media play in sexual bullying?
 
Sexual bullying and slut shaming is ingrained in our cultural subconscious, to the point that many people don’t even notice it. Many media sources spread information in a language and tone that further propagate this often mindless sexual bullying. One instance that’s gotten a lot of attention is this clip from a CNN news report:
 
 
In this clip, reporters discuss the Steubenville sentencing from the perspective of the young men involved, now convicted rapists. Almost nothing is said of the rape victim herself. Why are the men the focus of the story? It is as if the reporters assume that the young woman involved should be held responsible for her own rape. The media plays into sexual bullying just as subconsciously as a person walking down the street might eye a woman wearing shorts.
 
What role do parents and communities play in encouraging young teens to slut shame each other?
 
Young women live in a world of constant sexual judgment. They’re bombarded with media that encourages them to wonder:Am I as pretty as the girl on the magazine? Is my skin as clear as Beyonce’s? Am I fatter than the girl sitting next to me in Math class? Does the boy sitting behind me think that my butt looks good in these new designer jeans?
 
Very quickly, this attitude turns into bullying.
 
She is wearing a short skirt today — what a slut!
I heard that she went to third base with that boy last weekend — she is a total slut!
That girl is so beautiful; she has the entire baseball team chasing her — SLUT!
 
Parents and communities, much like the media, do very little to address this mindset in young women. Instead, they constantly reinforce the importance of the issue by focusing on the physical appearance of young women. To deal with this pressure, most girls turn to their peers, who are also trapped in a downward spiral of judgment and confusion. Unlike with other types of bullying, with slut shaming there is no knowledgeable third party, no outside source of reason, to help young women cope.
 
Beyond Slut: A Documentary Film, we hope that The UnSlut Project will fill in this gaping hole of support in young women’s lives by fostering a sense of awareness and creating a safe space for issues like these to be discussed.
 
Where are you hoping to show Slut – in schools, on TV, on YouTube?
 
EVERYWHERE! We are hoping to start with the documentary at a few film festivals, then move outward from there. It is very important to us that the film is seen by as many eyes as possible.
 
Emily’s experiences led her to found The UnSlut Project. Was there anything specifically that gave you both the idea to make a documentary?
 
We both agreed that a film was a powerful way to show how Emily’s experiences were not by any means unique. In fact, we believe that most women experience some form of slut shaming at some point in their lives. We thought a film was the best way to highlight the widespread nature of this problem as quickly and profoundly as possible.
 
Moreover, there is a negative visual pattern and tone in our current culture that revolves around female sexuality. We thought it would be powerful to see that pattern emerge visually, then to show how we could counteract and CHANGE culture for the better. Making a film allows us to do that.
 
Do you think sexual bullying isn’t tackled as well as physical and verbal bullying or is it condoned by society in a way that physical violence isn’t?
 
Sexual bullying often is physical and verbal in nature, but it’s often overlooked in a way that other types of bullying are not due to the Puritanical American way of dealing with all things sex related. In America, sex is taboo. It is not a suitable subject for most dinner tables. If a young girl is sexually harassed at school, she might not discuss that as readily with her parents or otherwise trusted adults in her community because of the inherent shame attached to anything sexual.
 
Cyberbullying tends to get media attention. Do you think slut shaming was as bad before social media?
 
Slut shaming and a negative connotation attached to female sexuality has existed in many, many cultures throughout history in some form – when you think about it, the entire Judeo-Christian tradition blames Eve for being such a temptress for Adam and ruining everything. But social media exaggerates this idea. On the one hand, it is much easier to call someone a SLUT on their Facebook wall, than it is to call them a SLUT to their face in person. On the other hand, social media is public, so it brings this issue to light in a really vast way.
 
Do you consider the treatment of unmarried mothers in previous decades or the current stigma against teen moms and sex workers to be slut shaming (or related to slut shaming)?
 
Yes. Absolutely. There is an inherent negativity attached to females having sex outside of marriage (and becoming an unwed mother is proof that you’ve done so), or providing a sexual service to a willing participant no matter what the circumstances or the personal choices of the women involved.
 
Do you think slut shaming is a ‘leveler’ – that unlike some issues, it affects even the most privileged women and there’s no way a woman can protect herself from it?
 
Almost every part of a human’s identity can be changed in a few simple steps. Move to a new town, change your name, clothes, interests, activities, and you might be known in entirely new circles by entirely new people.
 
However, even if she manages to change all of those things, a woman who identifies as a woman is always a woman. Of course, men who are born as women undergo serious medical procedures to correct their physical sex. But every cis-gendered woman, regardless of race, economic status, or creed, is always judged as a woman and hence is always vulnerable to sexual shame.
 
Some people who have been reading her diary entries have commented that Emily herself is a white woman born into a privileged family, so her experience is quite limited. “Slut: A Documentary” will give us a chance to expand the voice of The UnSlut Project so that it doesn’t just represent Emily and women with similar experiences to hers, but so that it encompasses as many different perspectives as possible.
 
Obviously school bullying can be very traumatic. Do you think slut shaming by adults or slut shaming that occurs in professional spaces is any different or less damaging than school bullying?
 
Slut shaming is always hurtful. There are no exceptions.
 
What books/sites/blogs do you recommend for anyone wanting to learn more about sexual bullying?
 
We first recommend visiting our site, of course, and becoming involved in a growing community: theunslutproject.com. The stories women have shared there demonstrate just how widespread this issue is.
 
Beyond that, we recommend “Slut: Growing Up Female with a Bad Reputation” by Leora Tenanbaum, who will be featured in our film. 
 
How can we get involved with Slut: A Documentary Film and The UnSlut Project?
 
 
Visit our Kickstarter page and make a donation! Any amount helps – we’re not just saying that! – and if we don’t make our goal, we won’t get ANY of the funds, so please spread the word to help us reach $18,000. Visit our website and get involved with the community by sharing your story or leaving a comment in any of our forums!
 
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You can find Emily Lindin on Twitter at @UnSlutProject.

 

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One thought on “The UnSlut Project interview: Emily Lindin and Jessica Caimi talk slut shaming, bullying and their documentary film

  1. David October 9, 2013 at 8:16 pm Reply

    Let me first say that I am absolutely against slut-shaming. To be fair, my girlfriend has beautiful legs, and if I look at them, it’s with complete admiration.

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