books, Reading, Women Writers

“Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman” by Lindy West

“As a woman, my body is scrutinized, policed, and treated as a public commodity. As a fat woman, my body is also lampooned, openly reviled, and associated with moral and intellectual failure. My body limits my job prospects, access to medical care and fair trials, and – the one thing Hollywood movies and Internet trolls most agree on – my ability to be loved.”

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Lindy West is a gutsy, uppity, bad-ass writer. Not having the pleasure of reading the news outlets she most often contributes to (GQ, Stranger, The Guardian), and avoiding the twitter world of mud-slinging like the plague that it very much is, I have had minimal exposure to West’s voice before now. That lack is an utter shame that was at least partially addressed through reading her new book, “Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman”. If I tell you that endorsements on the jacket include Ira Glass, Jenny Lawson, and Caitlin Moran, will you understand why this book HAD to be read?

In “Shrill”, West speaks from the heart and the funny bone (spleen?) as she takes on fat-shaming, misogyny, rape culture, and internet trolls.

“Feminists don’t single out rape jokes because rape is ‘worse’ than other crimes – we single them out because we live in a culture that actively strives to shrink the definition of sexual assault; that casts stalking behaviors as romance; blames victims for wearing the wrong clothes, walking through the wrong neighborhood, or flirting with the wrong person; bends over backwards to excuse boys-will-be-boys misogyny; makes the emotional and social costs of reporting a rape prohibitively high; pretends that false accusations are a more dire problem than actual assaults; elects officials who tell rape victims that their sexual violation was ‘god’s plan’; and convicts in less than 5 percent of rape cases that go to trial. Comedians regularly retort that no one complains when they joke about murder or other crimes in their acts, citing that as a double standard. Well, fortunately, there is no cultural narrative casting doubt on the existence and prevalence of murder and pressuring people not to report it.”

West is simultaneously girded with a “fuck you, I don’t need you to like me” attitude and unafraid to admit vulnerability and, well, humanity. She is self-deprecating without being demeaning or overly apologetic; she is self-loving in a way we should all model; and she is unafraid to enter the ring, take down the opposition, and make everyone around her chuckle. Her book was powerful and heartening the way a stiff drink and wry laugh with a soul mate can be. A must-read both for feminists and for anyone who still doesn’t get it.

“Privilege means that those of us who need it the least often get the most help.”

 

 

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