I recently found The UnSlut Project, created by Emily Lindin. This project documents the journals of a girl (Emily) who was labeled the sixth grade slut. Emily has created a cast of characters (whose names have been changed), conveniently listed on the right-hand side of the screen for easy reference, and through her journal entries reveals their relationships with each other and with her.
Emily was in 6th grade in 1997-98, the year before I entered 6th grade. For me, her writing and cultural references are familiar, and sometimes completely heartbreaking. She talks about the trials of dial-up, shows a picture of Hansen, and receiving her first french kiss, among other things. In the span of a few months, we’re able to see her friendships change and break and shift, and the degree to which slut-shaming is (and was) prevalent, even by sixth grade.
But, this is more than just a confessional: “here’s what I was really like…” Emily complicates the narrative through present-day Emily asides (in brackets). She notes in one entry, for instance, that “perfect” and “egotistical” were apparently not contradictory in her sixth grade understanding of the world (when talking about a love interest). For me, this too speaks to the cultural expectations we’ve already learned by the time we’re in sixth grade, and it allows adult feminist Emily to critique her younger self, while still accepting her younger self.
The UnSlut Project has been set up to be collaborative: readers can share their own experiences, and reading through these experiences (as well as the comments attached to particular entries), it’s obvious that while Emily is (currently) describing sixth grade, that the problem of slut-shaming is much more widespread than something that happens in adolescence (this should come as no surprise, given the attitude of many people toward sex workers).
These shared experiences move beyond just the people who were slut-shamed though — they also include entries by people who stood silently by while others were shamed, or those who were shamed/silenced for other reasons. I think this is incredibly important because the variety of experiences serves as a reminder that lasting hurt can come in so many forms. I also think it’s important, because they serve as a forum to remind people that they were not, and are not, alone in their experiences — even if those experiences felt incredibly isolating.
I wanted to write about this project because I think it’s pretty incredible — but also because I just responded to someone who asked what type of feminist books they might give to their 15-year-old sister. The UnSlut Project is something I wish I’d known about when I responded. Emily’s present-day voice adds a beautiful feminist reading to the entries, without being overbearing or academic.