When most people think of pro wrestlers, social activism isn't the first thing that comes to mind. That may be changing soon because former WWF and WWE champion Mick Foley is using his time and public image to fight dangerous attitudes and behaviors toward women.
Foley first volunteered to answer the abuse hotline at RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) for two years. Now he's working as an associate producer for an upcoming documentary, "The UnSlut Project," a film by directors Emily Lindin and Jessica Caimi that aims to spread awareness about the dangerous repercussions of slut-shaming and the way it impacts teens and young women in particular.
The documentary comes on the heels of Lindin's popular Tumblr blog by the same name. The blog is a word for word transcription of Emily's middle school diary. It describes her classmates bulling her for being, as she describes it, "sexually precocious." Lindin became inspired to publish her private diary after hearing the stories of Rehtaeh Parsons, a 17-year-old who committed suicide after pictures of her being gang raped were distributed around her school, and Audrie Pott, a 15-year-old who committed suicide after being sexually assaulted by three boys.
"Reading these stories made me realize, 'Oh my god. I considered suicide.' So I realized that I had these diaries from that time. I knew that what happened to me wasn’t unique at all," Lindin said.
Lindin felt she could reach an even wider audience with the same subject matter and began crowdfunding for money to produce a documentary. However, as the deadline approached, the project hadn't come close to meeting its goal. That's when Foley heard about it from a friend.
"[I] didn't think it stood a chance of being funded," Foley said. "I put an offer out where I would match donations dollar for dollar until they met their goal."
"It was fantastic," Lindin said. "We reached the goal in a matter of hours."
Not only did Foley's support make the project a reality, it also helped to eradicate Lindin's own preconceived notions: "I had stereotypes about what wrestling fans were like, this showed me that I was wrong."
In fact, according to Foley, "The movie was funded in great part by wrestling fans. We have male, female, straight, gay, transgender [fans]. There’s something for everybody in pro wrestling. We draw fans from all walks of life."
With production fully funded, Lindin and her co-director got to work shooting footage of people like Rehtaeh Parsons' close friends to Samantha Geimer, the woman whom Roman Polanski sexually assaulted when she was age 13. The completed project will be a film that is applicable to everyone: both victims and non-victims of sexual assault and slut-shaming.
"Everyone is affected [by slut-shaming] whether they realize it or not because everyone knows someone who is affected by sexual violence," Foley said.
Lindin hopes that young girls who are currently the victims of slut-shaming will realize: "It has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the person who has decided to slut-shame you. What you have control over is how you let it affect you and you can define yourself however you want to. You can be an artist. You can be really good at math. You can be a kind person. There are all these different ways to define yourself, and just focus on that and all the different ways you want to see yourself grow, rather than allowing anyone else to decide for you where you’ll go."
The project is in the final stages of fundraising for post-production, a step that, particularly in a documentary, greatly impacts the quality of the film. Foley urges people to "Step up and make a little contribution because it’s an important subject, and I think Emily’s making an important contribution about that subject."
You can contribute to this important film here.
If you’re being slut-shamed or facing digital abuse and are dealing with stress because of it, find out how you can cope with resources from A Thin Line.