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Slut-Shamed? It Gets Better

slut-shamingAt age eleven Emily Lindin was declared a slut and “harassed incessantly at school, after school, and online,” she says.

A diary entry:

Aaron said he had heard that Zach “ate me out.” I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I said it wasn’t true, just to be on the safe side.

Fifteen years later she recalls:

I have a very painful memory of watching an instant message window pop up from an account called DieEmilyLindin and reading the message: “Why haven’t you killed yourself yet, you stupid slut?”

Now, at age 27 she is publishing her diary (with names disguised) on a Tumblr she calls the UnSlut Project, hoping to serve as an ‘It Gets Better’ project for girls who’ve been slut-shamed.

I’ve been thinking about this amidst an onslaught of tragedies like these:

  • Fifteen-year-old Felicia Garcia of Stanton Island had sex with four football players, which was recorded and shared around her school. Two players began tormenting her and others joined in. Felicia jumped in front of a Staten Island train.
  • Four boys assaulted seventeen-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons of Nova Scotia, labeled her a “slut” and shared a photo online. Then, the whole school started harassing her. Rehtaeh hung herself.
  • Fourteen-year-old Samantha Kelly also hung herself, unable to withstand the taunting and harassment that followed a police report of her rape.

I’ve often wished that an “It Gets Better” project could help girls like them make it through and go on to live fulfilling lives.

Others’ opinions can have a big impact on how we see ourselves. Our personal identities can seem merely “subjective,” but when many others agree that we are “X” — for good or for ill — it can seem “objective.”

Still, each of us has more knowledge about ourselves than anyone else. And we can consider the motives behind the labeling. Kids who bully are trying to raise themselves up by putting others down. If they really thought they were so great, they wouldn’t have to make so much effort.

Luckily, it does get better because people grow up, mature and become more secure.

And, the ex-bullied may become stronger, more empathetic and deepened.

In the meantime, maybe Emily’s blog will help others to know that they’ve got support…  and that it gets better.

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Raping, Shaming Girls to Impress Guys

Felicia Garcia

Why do some guys shame and harass the girls they’ve had sex with? And why do some guys pressure or manipulate girls into sex — or even rape them — to impress other guys?

Young men at Piedmont High near San Francisco were caught “drafting” female schoolmates (unbeknownst to most of them) into a secret “Fantasy Slut League.” Upper classmen earned points for documenting their sexual exploits and used social pressure to manipulate the girls’ yearnings to feel attractive, included and popular. Sometimes they plied their targets with alcohol to impair judgment and control, that is, to commit rape.

Meanwhile, in the Stanton Island borough of New York, 15-year-old Felicia Garcia of Tottenville High had sex with four football players. The escapade was recorded and passed around the school as football players bragged about their conquest. Two of the ball players involved began tormenting her, and as news spread through the school, bullying spread, too.

One of Felicia’s friends told the New York Daily News,

Kids are saying she had sex with some guys from the football team at a party after the game. Later on, they wouldn’t leave her alone about it. They just kept bullying her and bullying her.

The young women of Piedmont High were left shamed and humiliated, and too many of them were sexually assaulted. Felicia killed herself on October 24 when she jumped in front of a Staten Island train as 200 students watched in horror.

You have to wonder why so many young men are willing to harm so many young women.

The answer likely revolves around guys trying to feel like men.

Michael Kimmel is an expert on men and masculinity who has studied “guys” at the cusp of manhood. He says that too often guys hurt themselves or others as they latch onto the more negative notions of manhood like aggression, violence, dominance and being tough.

Meanwhile, women are often objectified and seen as “things” that are all about sex. If they are things, and not people, you don’t have to worry about their feelings or their lives.

The young men at Piedmont High and Tottenville High were working to create a culture that painted men as aggressive and dominant, and women as silenced and humiliated victims who were made to feel lower in status… and who may even end up killing themselves.

Surely there are better ways to be a man.

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