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Shrill by Lindy West


by Lindy West

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3682129,459 (4.21)20

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The very first thing I did as I prepared to write this review was to look at the one star reviews on Amazon. To a person, the reviewers whined about Lindy's "whining." I kid you not, they all said, she needs to get over herself.

Way to miss the point, people. Seriously, why did you even bother? Did you just skim it just to be able to slag her? Because you are totally proving her point, and the point of a bazillion other women, fat or otherwise, about how we're told to sit down, shut up, and quit whining all the damn time, and by other women (shame on them!) as well as men. And that is why we need voices like Lindy's, voices that are informed and unafraid. And as she quite rightly points out:

"They talk to you this way until you make them stop."

That's what she's doing. She's working at making them stop, not just for herself for for every person who has ever been insulted or victimized for what they are, female, fat, black, brown, gay, trans, for those who have been raped or physically abused, or verbally abused. You have to make them stop because they won't on their own.

"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."

In the process of reading, I shared a couple of dozen quotes, many of which I don't think my friends even bothered to read, or if they did, they said nothing. And if my friends, who are smart and political, allow these things to fall into the void, then you can bet there's a lot of painful truth here that they find hard to assimilate. As a fat woman myself, I can vouch for everything she says about the attitude that gets tossed in our faces. I can vouch for worse, for physical assault simply because someone didn't like the way I looked.

Unlike Roxane Gay, Lindy has not (at least not as far as I know) been a rape victim, but she has worked hard to bring an awareness of how the subject of rape has been abused in comedy. She discusses the concept of punching up, and how it's the only way you can make acceptable jokes about horrible things. Punch up, satirize the rapist, the abuser, those entitled sociopaths who commit the crimes. Satirize the people at the top who create inequality or hostile culture. But never, ever go after the poor, the abused, the victims because the moment you even imply that violence is deserved, that rape is amusing, that poor people are poor because they're lazy, then you're punching down. And that makes you an asshole.

I didn't find Shrill as laugh-out-loud funny as Furiously Happy, nor did it make me break down in tears as did Hunger. It made me furious, it helped me -- here's that word again -- assimilate a lot of the experiences I'd had in my life and understand how they'd shaped my attitudes. It helped me to forgive the unintentional hurts and view the intentional ones with a resolve never again to let anyone make me feel like a bug to be squashed.

Let me close with an important point that she makes late in the book:

"A straight, cis, able-bodied white man is the only person on this planet who can travel almost anywhere (and, as the famous Louis CK bit goes, to almost any time in history), unless they’re literally dropping into a war zone, and feel fairly comfortable and safe (and, often, in charge). To the rest of us, horrors aren’t a thought experiment to be mined—they’re horrors."

Lindy, if you ever read this, you rock. ( )
  Tracy_Rowan | Jul 24, 2017 |
Love. I love this book. I read it in under 24 hours

Lindy West is a fantastic writer based in Seattle. Locals first got to know her writing in The Stranger, our funky weekly paper. Most other folks know her as a writer for The Guardian. She uses her wit and intellect to discuss issues like being a fat woman existing in the world, the prevalence and support of rape culture in stand-up comedy, and the need for access to reproductive health care, including abortion.

Ms. West has a way with words that I admire. She can take a serious issue and find a way to make it funny without diminishing it at all. For example, in the very first chapter of this book she lists all of the fat female role models she had growing up. They’re basically limited to characters from Disney films, and I think only one is human. It’s a funny chapter that drives home the fucked-up ness of the issue. Sample quote: “A League of Their Own is a classic family comedy that mines the age-old question: What if women … could do things?”

Every chapter is an essay that could stand on its own, although they connect really well to each other. I found myself marking them up with notes even more than usual. I did skim one of the sections of the book. I read it, but REALLY quickly. The chapter involves a discussion about rape jokes, and includes a recounting of Ms. West going on W. Kamau Bell’s show to “debate” the issue with another (male) comedian. She is right, he is not, and it’s just so frustrating to read the willful ignorance that some people employ to not have to make any adjustments to their worldviews. I just couldn’t devote the time to it that I should have. But I will, some day.

I wish I’d had this book when I was younger, and plan to gift it to my nieces when they are older. I also know that I will be re-reading this book regularly in the years to come. ( )
  ASKelmore | Jul 9, 2017 |
Remarkable -- one of the best books I've read, and I read a LOT. West's voice is honest and fresh. She is thoughtful and forthright, and despite her critics' charges to the contrary, she never shrinks from examining herself or her own motives. The blend of social / political observation and personal narrative is powerful. I have read a number of her shorter pieces and heard some interviews, so I already admired West, but after this book, I genuinely love her and her work. She is brave, yes, and uncompromising -- this you know, if you know anything about her. But she is also affectionate, and kind, and sweet lord is she funny. To her many critics, I suggest you may be seeing the billboard (or the tweet?) version of West and her work. This book will help you see more of the whole person, or at least her views and ideas, not just opinions (though she doesn't shrink from conveying those, and rightly so). Three cheers for Lindy West! ( )
  jenspirko | Jun 1, 2017 |
I first heard -- and, indeed, first heard of -- Lindy West when she appeared on a couple of This American Life episodes, once in a segment about her calling out her then-boss (and still friend) Dan Savage for his painful and clueless attempts to fat-shame America out of its obesity epidemic, and once with an amazing story about getting an actual, sincere apology from an internet troll who had attacked her in a way that seems unbelievably appalling and cruel even by the usual cesspit-y internet standards. And, listening to her on the show, I knew instantly that I really, really wanted to read this woman's writing.

Well, now I have. And, boy, did it not disappoint. In this volume she talks about her life, her family, and her relationships; about feminism; about comedy; about abortion; about online harassment; and about what it's like to be fat and to decide, after a lifetime of being told that your body is disgusting and you are unlovable because of it, that you just aren't going to quietly take that anymore. And it's all just amazing. West is so sharp and so smart, so willing to be loud and bold and firm in declaring her convictions, but also wonderfully thoughtful, reasonable, and deeply, deeply humane. And so funny. Parts of this made me laugh out loud. Like, a lot. Other parts made my heart hurt. Also a lot. Possibly a moment or two kind of made me do both at once. Like I said. Amazing. ( )
1 vote bragan | May 11, 2017 |
This collection of essays is strung together in a loose arc that documents Lindy West's evolution as a writer on pop culture who also works for feminism and fat acceptance. There's a lot to admire here in her clear-eyed and brassy intelligence, and in the kindness which permeates her advocacy. The later essays worked for me a little better than did the earlier ones, though; they're sharp and funny but more sober. Aspects of the comedic style which West adopts in the earlier essays just didn't ping with me—I suspect that they work better verbally than in print—though I was glad to find in her someone else who's long been perturbed by the septuagenarian six pack sported by King Triton in Disney's Little Mermaid. (It had to be steroids, right?) ( )
  siriaeve | May 3, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0316348406, Hardcover)

Hailed by Lena Dunham as an "essential (and hilarious) voice for women," Lindy West is ferociously witty and outspoken, tackling topics as varied as pop culture, social justice and body image. Her empowering work has garnered a coast-to-coast audience that eagerly awaits SHRILL, her highly-anticipated literary debut.

West has rocked readers in work published everywhere from The Guardian to GQ to This American Life. She is a catalyst for a national conversation in a world where not all stories are created equal and not every body is treated with equal respect. SHRILL is comprised of a series of essays that bravely shares her life, including her transition from quiet to feminist-out-loud, coming of age in a popular culture that is hostile to women (especially fat, funny women) and how keeping quiet is not an option for any of us.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 01 Feb 2016 22:13:30 -0500)

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