Lindy West, weekly columnist for The Guardian, culture writer for GQ, and sometime blogger for Jezebel.com, created Shrill: Notes From A Loud Woman as a response to the current way women are navigating society. In the wake of Caitlin Moran’s phenomenal How To Be A Woman the shelves were flooded with comedy-riddled, rage-against-patriarchy, feminist manifestos, most of which were a poor imitation of the original. West’s offering could very easily have been in a similar vein. Humorous and stark in its opinions, Shrill is unapologetically feminist, yet feminism isn’t the whole concern, and is often set aside to deal with the nuances of other issues. Where it is considered, it is most often fat feminism, a very specific subset of a much broader topic, that is Lindy’s subject of choice.
Fat Feminism and Other Monsters…
There’s a culture that demands women be quiet and small, the asks them to diminish themselves so they are more in line with the acceptable social ‘norms’ of their gender. I was immediately drawn to Lindy’s book for several reasons. On a professional level I study gender and feminism and I was interested in her perspective. On a personal level I have always been one of the smartest, of not the smartest, kid in the room. I was always told to be quiet, not to raise my hand, people won’t like you if you’re smart, you don’t get boys being smart…
At the age of thirty-one I feel compelled to point out that this is something that still haunts me today. I made myself small, and quiet, and didn’t speak. I made myself seem less intelligent than I was so that I might be accepted. Of course it didn’t work, kids aren’t stupid. Not being academically inclined doesn’t make people unobservant, insensitive to the nature of others, or – to put it bluntly – dumb. Kids know when you’re smart, even if you pretend not to be. So I got my arse kicked regardless and spent a good twenty years pretending to be something I’m not and all the while feeling ashamed of it.
And that’s before we’ve got to the whole ‘fat-shaming’ thing, which has been another constant in my life and gave me an eating disorder.
So when Lindy West released her book, I was first in line to read in.
There is a comedic value to the book, despite it covering some dark and sensitive topics. West isn’t afraid to touch on abortion, feminism, fat-shaming, and much, much more. She’s funny, gusty, all the while making it very clear that these aren’t unfounded, made-up opinions she’s expressing. She’s smart and sophisticated in the way she writes and presents her facts.
With intimate insights and well-articulated points, this is a book that can and should be read by all. Whether you agree with her positions and view points is entirely up to you, but it’s one of those times when you need to be aware such views and opinions exist, even if you disagree with them. It’s a book for the women who feel they need to fit into society and the men who feel like women are from another planet.