On Wednesday, I was welcomed by the Annapolis West Education Centre and the town of Annapolis Royal in Nova Scotia. In the morning, we held an assembly for grades 9-12 and their teachers. That evening, we screened UnSlut: A Documentary Film at the school for interested students, their parents, school staff, and even a member of the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police). It was a very moving day full of conversation, tears, healing, and planning.
The whole visit was made possible by a high school junior named Zeynep. In January, she emailed me to say that she would like to bring me to her school to speak about "slut" shaming and sexual bullying, but she knew the school didn't have a budget to bring in international speakers. I offered to donate my time and then Zeynep convinced the administration to host an assembly, scheduled the day, and secured funding for my stay from Women's Place Resource Centre. I was delighted to be able to share The UnSlut Project with Annapolis Royal, thanks to the motivation of this young woman, as well as the work of one of the dedicated teachers at AWEC, Susan Robinson-Burnie.
In Zeynep's Words:
Annapolis Royal’s high school is very small; only 170 students attend classes in grades 9 to 12. One hundred and seventy teenagers may not seem like an overwhelming number when you see it as the entire population, spread out and diverse. As diverse as they may be, there is one thing they unite in: a juicy story about one of their peers, and suddenly for a 16-year-old girl, 170 teens are the end of her world. That 16 year old was me last September and many other girls every month following. These girls had nothing more in common than the fact that the entire high school had taken an active interest in our sexual history or lack thereof.
I was pelted with jokes and snide remarks during class and was horrified to realize that everyone knew about such a personal event. I ran to my friend when it was recess, and I was on the verge of tears as I managed to say, “Everyone knows.” Her response was, “Well, your actions have consequences.” This was the mantra of our school and try as I might to ignore it and focus on schoolwork, I couldn’t.
That’s when a few months later I discovered The Unslut Project and heard Emily’s story, I knew immediately that our school needed to hear from someone who could eloquently show the dangers and consequences of “slut” shaming. So I emailed Emily and within a month it was planned with the help of one of my teachers. Emily made the flight out and came to our school the following day. The presentation was amazingly well received, with us also planning a community screening of UnSlut: A Documentary Film that night. Both events changed people's perspective and allowed education our school does not otherwise provide. Kindness, respect, and perseverance - that is what this project has taught me and it will stay with me forever, as well as with 169 other students.