Last week, I helped host a screening of UnSlut: A Documentary Film, about slut-shaming, the harm that it causes, and how we can fight it. Given the topic, it was more than appropriate that the screening took place at an intentional, sex-positive, poly-friendly community in Brooklyn, the Hacienda Villa, managed by my business partner and friend, Kenneth Play.
The movie was directed (and thought of) by Emily Lindin, who was herself slut-shamed in middle school and later started the UnSlut Project, sharing her middle-school diaries with the world to shed light on this issue. Midway through the kickstarter campaign to fund the movie production, Emily got vital, and completely unexpected help from a seemingly unlikely supporter: Mr. Mick Foley. If you know who Mick Foley is, you probably know him as a former WWE champion pro-wrestler (aka Mankind, Cactus Jack) and through his appearance on the TV show Celebrity Wife Swap. What you probably didn’t know–but you should–is that he is a vocal anti-bullying and sexual assault survivors advocate.
After the movie screening and a fascinating Q&A session (part of which you can watch here, until the periscope app chose to crash at the most inopportune of times), I got a chance to sit down with Mick (and Emily, for a minute) ask them about it.
Mick: When I see someone looking at me, I know they know me from somewhere and I’ll go, “Celebrity Wife Swap” and they’ll say, “Yes, that’s right!”
Me: That’s hilarious. I know you were a professional wrestler. You were a wife swapper too, apparently?
Mick: The show is called “Wife Swap.” No, it’s technically not wife swapping. My wife changed places with Antonio Sabato Jr’s fiancé. So, my wife spent a week with the most handsome man who’s ever lived in the history of the world.
Me: But there’s no actual swapping going on?
Mick: No, no. [laughing]
Me: You have this background that people know you for, but you also somehow got involved in sexual assault survivor health and support. How did that happen? What was your involvement with that?
Mick: It was a chance meeting with singer Tori Amos, who cofounded RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. I met Tori at San Diego Comic-Con in 2009. It was a big deal to me, I was a big fan, and I remember my first actual words to her when she opened up her arms. I looked at her and said, “I can hug you?” and then she hugged me. I said, “you know who I am?” and she said, “I know exactly who you are.” It was because she had a nephew who was a wrestling fan and said “There was a wrestler who mentioned you in books.” So she was well aware of who I was. She didn’t know until later, after I had written a 7,500 word chapter based on that brief meeting, of how she changed me, caused me to learn more, become an advocate, then a donor, and then a volunteer so. Never know who in your life may touch you along the way.
Me: Yeah, that’s true. You became a volunteer for RAINN?
Mick: I was a donor first and then realized RAINN was run and depended so much on its volunteers. I thought I could be a better advocate if I knew what it was like to be a volunteer. I took the 40-hr online training and then the 2-day in person, which is like sixteen hours, and started out with very little computer skills. I was learning as I was going. Later on, RAINN mentioned that they could really use more males in their forties. I asked, “How many volunteers do you have?” They said, “Including you? One.” I was shocked, “I’m it?” It’s just not something people my age are thinking of and in so many cases I was like the dad they should’ve been talking to, but couldn’t. That caused me to write an article that got picked up by Wired. When you get married it’s unconditional love for better, for worse, for richer, and for poorer. It should go without saying that the parent-child relationship should be unconditional too, but unfortunately, many times when the child needs that parent the most, they don’t feel like it’s something approachable. My son is 14 and he’s on the autism spectrum. I’m learning as I go. I hope to be an advocate for parents with autistic children. I show support in the same way I’m hoping to raise awareness for sexual bullying and slut-shaming. I hope I can create some awareness for autism, as well.
Me: How did you get involved with Emily’s UnSlut documentary?
Mick: A friend who was backing it told me about it and I looked at the crowd funding campaign. I didn’t think they had a chance to meet their goal.
Me: Yes, it didn’t look like it for a while. I was there from the beginning.
Mick: It didn’t look promising, but I talked to Emily on the phone because I wanted to get a sense for what the film was about. I was ready to make a pretty good donation and I went on Twitter, I think Facebook as well, and said, “Look, I’ll meet you guys half way. I will match every donation.” I think we raised about twelve thousand dollars in four days and got just over that finish line.
Me: Nice. And you were involved with the filming? You are in the movie, right?
Mick: Yes. I’m really self-conscious, you know. I don’t think I was the only one thinking “Wow, he’s pretty good in that,” right? I was pretty good.
Me: You were amazing, yes.
Mick: I wouldn’t say amazing. You could say amazing.
Me: You were pretty amazing. The way you articulated some of the issues that surround sexual assault survivors and the stigma around it. I encourage people to watch the movie. Where can we see the movie, UnSlut, a documentary film?
Mick: I believe it’s making the rounds and going through some screenings. This is an Emily Lindin question. Perhaps over the course of time, I think on iTunes or one of the demand services.
Me: Were you bullied as a kid?
Mick: I was, a little bit, for my weight, a thing that might seem kind of innocuous. On the surface, kind of innocent and not harmful, but just the constant disparagement of a heavy kid. I was a big reader so I had the child version of Moby Dick and somebody replaced the D with an M as in Moby Mick, just a lot of comments about my weight.
(Emily walked by at this point and happily crashes our interview)
Me: (reading a Periscope audience question that makes no sense to me): Lesner or Undertaker? I’m guessing this is a wrestling reference?
Mick: I’m an Undertaker man. Without the Undertaker in 1996, honestly, in 1996, I wouldn’t be sitting here with you, I wouldn’t have funded this film, I wouldn’t have had a lot of the doors open, so I’m going for the Undertaker.
Me: Emily, you have no idea what he’s talking about, do you?
Emily: I do, actually. That came up when I googled him because he wanted to be involved in the film and I was like, “Oh, that’s a famous guy.” Sorry I can’t stay longer, have to run, thank you for supporting us!
Mick: Back to the Undertaker, I’m going to give you an exclusive. Those first timers who are seeing my fashion sense for the first time, the Undertaker, that was a famous match where one of my front teeth ended up in my nose. I was not aware of that fortunately, because if I had been aware of that, that I had a front tooth in my nose on national TV, I would have been so embarrassed. So those are the words I’m going to leave you with. Thank you, I feel honored to know you.
Me: Thank you! I feel the same way.
Mick: What an eclectic group of people that came out tonight to see the screening. Really intelligent people, from all walks of life and really. I hope people at home will check out UnSlut. Thank you guys.
Me: This has been such a fun day!
Want to host a screening of the Unslut: A Documantary in your own community, school, college, organization? Get in touch with Emily Lindin at @UnSlutProject!!