Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, by Lindy West (2016)
"Women matter. Women are half of us. When you raise every woman to believe that we are insignificant, that we are broken, that we are sick, that the only cure is starvation and restraint and smallness; when you pit women against one another, keep us shackled by shame and hunger, obsessing over our flaws rather than our power and potential; when you leverage all of that to sap our money and our time—that moves the rudder of the world. It steers humanity toward conservatism and walls and the narrow interests of men, and it keeps us adrift in waters where women’s safety and humanity are secondary to men’s pleasure and convenience."
Fuck's sake, Lindy! This book is amazing. West is self-aware, brutally honest, funny, courageous, and smart, and delivers a truly moving memoir, all while deftly taking on misogyny, rape culture, fat shaming, abortion, internet trolls, and how shitty it is to fly in an airplane when you don't comfortably fit in the seats, and everyone's mad at you for it. West discusses her life as a fat person (her words) - all the ways she has been scorned and judged and threatened because of her size, and the confidence she developed that allowed her to confront it, as a writer and comedian and human.
She's cynical and analytic, but not a pessimist - which is a rare combination to find, I think. She's thoughtful with her words, and also doesn't pull any punches. She's willing to have hard conversations about things she has strong opinions about, all while being supportive instead of dismissive of the people she's conversing with. I love her strength, and her compassion.
Oh, and also? Her dad dies... so, obviously, I cried a lot. She so eloquently and bluntly talks about the process of a body breaking down ("One moment his body was the locus of his personhood, the next moment our memories had to pick up the slack"), and the mountain of regrets those left behind have to carry ("Those days eat at me. Why didn't I spend more time sitting with him? Why did I sleep so much? Why didn't I read out loud to him... Eventually I ran out of chances to sit with him, to be vulnerable, to tell the truth. We went to the hospital for the last time.").
My only minor complaint is about the section where West talks about her feud (my word) with editor Dan Savage, who made a habit of writing fat-shaming articles while she was working for him at The Stranger. I was a little disappointed that West spent as much time as she did excusing his behavior. I'm glad he's finally come around and no longer writes about it in the same patronizing terms. I'm glad he's no longer a bigot (or, anyway, less of one). For real - it's amazing when people actually grow and change for the better. I'm impressed, and it gives me hope. I'm just not ready to offer any awards for being "less of a bigot now." Like, dude, you definitely should've known better in the first place, especially after a friend and colleague pretty adamantly and succinctly expressed to you how your words were hurting her. But, he is still (or again?) a friend of West's, so I understand the impulse to offer absolution.
Thanks so much to my friend Claire for sending me this book!
UP NEXT: What's Mine and Yours, by Naima Coster