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Blowing the lid off slut-shaming

by Maggie Hope January 31, 2017 0 comment
Blowing the lid off slut-shaming

The documentary UnSlut takes a look at the emotional and psychological effects of slut-shaming and sexual violence

Right to Campus, a student organization at McGill University that promotes an inclusive and equitable culture on campus, held a free screening of the documentary UnSlut at McGill on Jan. 23.

UnSlut follows the stories of several women and girls who have been victims of slut-shaming and sexual violence. Their traumatic experiences are explicitly discussed and layered with comments from psychologists, sexologists, activists and other experts of sexuality and social behaviour.

The entire documentary is intense and heartbreaking. But it is also imperative, as it allows for a deep understanding of the impacts of the sexual abuse, bullying and harassment that are rampant in high schools and in North American society as a whole.

The film was followed by a group discussion, led by Right to Campus members Arianne Kent and Dina Al Shawwa, and three panelists. The panel consisted of Vrinda Narain, an associate professor and the associate dean of the faculty of law at McGill, Kathryn Travers, the executive director of Women in Cities International, and Dr. Carine Hamel, a psychiatrist at McGill Mental Health Services.

Emily Lindin, the director of the film and the creator of the UnSlut Project, narrates throughout the film. She explained she was driven to bring awareness to the impacts of slut shaming when she heard of Rehtaeh Parsons’ tragic story. In 2013, Parsons committed suicide a year and a half after being gang raped and then relentlessly harassed, in person and online, by classmates. She had been subjected to extreme slut-shaming, even after switching high schools. Sadly, as the film shows, Parsons’ story is one of many in North America. Lindin said she recognized the commonness and gravity of these experiences and decided to work towards starting a nationwide conversation.

In the film, Lindin emphasized the lack of education regarding healthy sexual behaviour and consent as one of the main causes of sexual violence in North American high schools and the harassment that follows. In the discussion after the film screening, the importance of education, not only in a formal setting such as high school, but also at home and in social settings, was emphasized several times. All three panelists agreed that the topic of sexual violence needs to be addressed from an informed and resourceful position, rather than one of judgement and fear, which results in slut-shaming and harassment.

The discussion continued with several members of the audience addressing the fact that the film did not include stories of minorities such as women of colour, members of the queer community and indigenous women. A number of speakers expressed that, as is the case with all women’s rights issues, it is necessary to address the subject of sexual violence and slut-shaming with an intersectional approach.

From these comments and further explanation from the panel, it was discussed that slut-shaming and other forms of sexual violence may appear in different ways when found in different contexts. For example, slut shaming may take a different form when it occurs outside of the high school environment, and an experience of sexual violence could be drastically different in the context of the queer community, than it would for a cisgender, heterosexual person. The panelists were quick to confirm that no experience should be considered more valid or important than another, and that it is crucial to address the variety of realities within which sexual violence can occur.

If you or anyone you know needs access to support and resources concerning the topics discussed, the Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC) offers a variety of services to Concordia students, on and off campus. The drop-in centre is located in room 300.27, in the GM building at the Sir George Williams campus. SARC offers confidential emotional support, as well as contact with additional services that may be needed.

Counselling and psychological services are available on both campuses in the form of 10 free sessions, and can be used at any point during your studies. In addition, the Centre for Gender Advocacy offers support, either in-person at 2110 Mackay St., or through their peer support line, 514-848-2424 x 7880.

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