Book Broads • Shrill

by Angie Eakley

My first exposure to Lindy West was years ago, when she was doing recaps of the show "Glee" for Vulture. When the writer is funny, smart, and engaged (positively or negatively) with the material, I start looking forward to the recap as much as the show (especially when, as with a lot of long-running shows, it loses its way and becomes a ridiculous shell of what it was), and I start imagining how the recapper will react to something especially funny, or ludicrous, or problematic. It's basically talking about tv with friends, but, you know, the internet.

And then she wasn't writing them any more, and I missed her voice, but not enough to do any actual follow up. I'd see her articles here and there, and I heard her on the episode of This American Life where she confronts her troll. I've always liked Lindy West, but in a lazy sort of way.

When her book Shrill came out, I had a feeling I'd like that too. Not having read much of her work at the Stranger or Jezebel, most of what I read was new, and I was excited about how much she had to say. It was smart, engaging, and funny, but after each essay I felt a little down.

Lindy West is a feminist. She is smart, she is funny, she is strong. She is also a woman. She is also overweight. The majority of her public writing deals with all of these things. She rails against misogyny and body shaming, even though she knows it makes her a bigger target for the people who attack her in the first place. She stands up for the people who don't have her platform, even after a man created a twitter account in the name of her dead father for the sole purpose of trolling her.

I guess this is the place where I talk about my privilege. I'm a white girl from a middle class suburb with a college education. I also have probably an overabundance of empathy. It makes me feel so angry, and so impotent, to learn about the kinds of struggles people face every day for things that are completely outside of their control, and on top of that to realize that so little of that has ever happened to me. And then I feel silly for even typing that, because how much of a self-important, out of touch asshole do I sound like by saying "I can't believe all of this awful shit has been happening and I didn't even know. I'm just over here complaining about a student loan payment from the comfort of the apartment that I can afford because of the job that I have and if I ever get into trouble financially or physically or mentally I have a strong network of friends, family, and community around me and also just going to the fucking bathroom has never been an issue for me because I am also cisgendered and heterosexual and so I don't get accused of being a potential child molester because of they way I look or dress and I'm not pretty enough to be objectified and underestimated based on my looks but I'm not ugly enough to be targeted for that and basically I live in a world that was designed for the male version of me and no, I'm not afraid that my family will get sent back to a dangerous country that isn't their home because I signed up for a program to allow me to go to school and work in the only home I've ever known and the people who use bits and pieces of an old book of stories to justify their hatred and ignorance and superiority complexes happen to technically be of the same religion that I grew up in, so no, I haven't been denied a job or housing or a loan because of the way my name is spelled, thanks for asking.”

The thing is, we shouldn't need Lindy West (or Roxane Gay or Ta-Nehisi Coates or Bryan Stevenson or Matthew Desmond) to live the lives and write the books that they do. Not now. It's 2017, and Lindy West is still writing about how being fat still makes you a person, how being a woman with a brain isn't a threatening abomination, how maybe if you need to spew violence and hate at someone anonymously over the internet, you should probably spend less time looking at a screen and more time looking at a mirror, because the problem is you.


"As a human being, I am as worthy and capable and entitled to my life as you are," "other women identify with and gain strength from my outspokenness because they also receive hate and violence and rape threats just for existing," "sure I'll go on your talk show and try to explain to a comedian why it isn't funny to joke about raping anyone, not matter what the people on reddit think" should not be revolutionary statements. We should be able to laugh at the quaintness and reactionary quality of those statements, not gathering in support of a woman who died because a bunch of Nazis felt bad about a statue coming down (just kidding, the cultural and political climate created a powder keg of hatred that was going to explode around anything, and god damn it there are no FINE PEOPLE in a group of chanting, torch wielding bigots, but that's another fight for another day).

What if Roxane Gay wasn't defined by her appearance, or her skin color? What if Bryan Stevenson didn't have a job because poor minorities weren't targeted and incarcerated at alarming rates? What would Matthew Desmond study if people weren't forced to live like discarded non-entities in a degrading cycle of unemployment and eviction? What would Ta-Nehisi Coates have to say to his son?

Can you imagine what someone like Lindy West would write about if she didn't have justify her very existence every time she has something to say?

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