Book Review – Shrill:Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West

“We live and then we stop living. We exist and then we stop existing. That means I only get one chance to do a good job. I want to do a good job.”

– Lindy West, Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman

On June 17, 2016, This American Life aired an episode titled Tell Me I’m Fat. Through that episode I learned about the writers Lindy West and Roxanne Gay, and since then they have been on my to-read list. Lindy West’s memoir really inspired me. At times it was really funny and at times I found myself in utter despair. Overall though it was very uplifting.

“The ‘perfect body’ is a lie. I believed in it for a long time, and I let it shape my life.”

– Lindy West, Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman

The book can be roughly divided up into three parts, or as West puts it, her three “little victories”. The first part deals with her experiences with fat-shaming and the “role-models” (or lack there of) who were available to her in her childhood. According to West, Ms. Piggy seemed to be the only semi-positive role-model. She also discusses that women are conditioned for “chasing perfection”, which is a scam because “There is no perfection.”

West’s second victory was when she stood up to comedians who tell rape jokes in their routines. She received a lot of backlash from that. She spoke out against the misogyny prevalent in comedy and ended up being “on the receiving end of a viral Internet hate mob”. She decided to read out loud the most vile comments in front of a camera, and posted the video online. After the video went viral, she received support from many people, including some comedians, with many of them realizing that rape-jokes are not okay.

Not only does Lindy West deal with fat-shaming and online trolls threatening her with rape, she faces harassment on Twitter by a man who stole her father’s identity. Reading about her experience with that was just heart-wrenching. She decided to write about it and after some time, the troll sends her an email apologizing to her. I remember listening to an episode on This American Life about this. That story was really uplifting.

The memoir ends on a positive note. Lindy West summarizes her three big wins, towards her goal in helping build a better world:

  1. fighting for fat people’s humanity
  2. putting an end to rape jokes in comedian routines
  3. dealing with and calling out trolls

Perhaps, there is still hope!

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