23. Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman

“Notes from a Loud Woman, from fat shaming to rape culture.”

I may have gorged myself on this one. What can I say? It was a good read. Lindy West is not somebody who I have come across before, but I did not go into this book blind. I was told from the onset that this is a text that is funny and ranty and full of feminist topics that may interest me. Shrill covers, fat shaming, rape culture, abortions, periods, all topics so familiar to me as a young woman living in 2016.

Just to warn you to enjoy this text you don’t have to be in the USA (just in the world), or a woman (just a person living in society), or be fat (just have a body). But if you are interested in one woman’s account of her life to date, finding confidence within her body and femininity and her grasping her views by the scruff of the neck with a sense of humour, this is a text for you.

Shrill by Lindy West

Shrill is a memoir that maps both West’s life and career. She begins with the ‘fat’ female roll models she had as a child in an easy writing style which is rapid, conversational and funny. She moves into the cultural firing line with Fat Shaming and writes candidly about struggles with body image. She talks openly about her own abortion, numerous failed relationships with men who were ashamed to openly admit they were dating a ‘fat’ girl. Ultimately, Shrill moves through formative years which shape her as a defender of women within her career. It is apt that the climax of this memoir is West’s outspoken crusade against Rape Culture, the flippant use of Rape Jokes in comedy.

Shrill is potent and West actively distils emotion into argument. But Shrill doesn’t directly call for a cultural revolution, but instead celebrates the ability to absorb the fixed attitude of society and then realise that these attitudes are malleable.

“Every cell in my body would rather be ‘fat’ than ‘big’. […] Please don’t forget: I am my body. […] There is not a thin woman inside me, awaiting excavation. I am one piece.”– (p.15, Shrill).

Shrill also underlines the perception of the self and West’s personal journey within it, not only embracing herself but standing in defence of herself and others. However this isn’t just a memoir about body image and overcoming personal insecurity, it is also a memoir about trolls.

West has faced the front line of misogyny for an incredible length of time, she describes her three pronged attack in defence of her own mental health. As most of us being regularly told to ‘kill yourself’ or that ‘you are a fat bitch, get raped’ by hundreds of strangers would indeed develop a similar defence. Though this trolling and bombardment of abuse West ultimately uses to prove her point in response to a debate on comedy as to why ‘rape jokes’ are not acceptable. Such violence and the threat of this violence to any woman’s body in ‘joke’ form is culturally not appropriate and it is something that cannot be ignored. These chapters feel ranty, they feel full of bite, and passion and frustration.

Shrill is an empowering read. But this is not just a feminist text, and certainly not a feminazi text either. West also writes gently about personal loss and her father, her family history, her husband, her experiences growing up reading high fantasy, and never quite fitting in. She is unafraid with her language, she is balls out, filthy language, vibrant in her metaphors, and entertains.

I would say that it is incredibly accessible to anyone who hasn’t much knowledge on feminist issues, fat shaming, rape culture. Or someone who is simply is interested in the experience of a woman or is searching for something very fundamentally positive about body image or being a woman. It’s all laid out very easily and the arguments presented are concise, passionate, and hit home.

Shrill also does something very important also. It humanises and gives a response to issues that may not be initially thought about deeply, because accepting and forgetting is simply easier than challenging negative cultural slurs. The message at the heart of this memoir is to be good to yourself, confront negative slurs, and be radically good to everyone else.

“I am also not a uterus riding around in a meat incubator.” – (p.15, Shrill)

Read it. Buy it for you friends. Be radically good.

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