I think there’s a movie or show quote somewhere to the effect of “I used to think if I cared about one thing I’d have to care about everything.” That’s a fair description of me. To be perfectly honest, I’m politically (and just generally) lazy. I don’t get into Facebook arguments about ridiculous right-wing conspiracies or correct people when they make tasteless jokes. I don’t campaign for politicians, or even volunteer to drive folks to voting booths. I didn’t write “#metoo” on Facebook the other week even though I have definitely been harassed. I’m not making myself sound too good. Look, I’m a good person (I think), and while I think we live in a patriarchal society and may be going down the tubes due to our current administration, I have yet to actually DO anything about it. I think to myself – “What can I do, as just one person who isn’t connected, crazy intelligent, or ambitious?” This long-winded lede has a point – reading Lindy West’s Shrill made me feel even worse at times about myself and my laziness, while at the same time making me shout “fuck yeah!!!!!” on just about every page.
I first heard about Lindy through This American Life. In that episode, she confronted a troll who’d made some particularly heinous comments as if he were her deceased father. It was a fantastic segment and so when my book club chose her book I was excited. The segment from This American Life is in the book, as well as so many covering trolls, body image, feminism, sexual violence, death, love, sex, etc. Lindy is fat (her words, but she’s right, owning the term fat can be a good way to make people realize that fat people ARE HUMAN BEINGS). She grew up that way and spent much of her life hating herself – until she didn’t. Reading Lindy’s essays was at times like reading diary entries I never wrote. I am fat myself, at least if you were to ask the fashion or entertainment industry. I could totally sympathize with the tendency to hide yourself, the struggle to find love and feel like you deserve to do so. I’m really struggling to write eloquently about how much I enjoyed these essays. Lindy is badass, funny, and real. I want to have a cocktail with her and maybe absorb some of her mojo. But back to my opening statements here – the reason I feel so shitty after having read this is Lindy IS just one person and she has actually made a tangible difference in some pretty major ways. I will admit that she has more writing talent than I, which earned her a career at some well-known publications with some pretty heavy followings. This means that unlike me she isn’t just some unknown normal person, but still. She managed to brave the world and trolls and risk her sanity and point out that hey, rape jokes are actually really not funny. Hey, fat people are human beings! And things are different now. It took her awhile to get there, and it’s not like everything is peachy keen now, but she has seen tangible changes. I wish I had the tenacity, strength, courage, and general stubbornness to fight an injustice and see it through tirelessly like Lindy does.
As a longtime fan of Dan Savage it was interesting to read the chapter on working for him and the major disagreements they had over his treatment of fat people. I can’t say that I was necessarily paying attention to his points of view on obesity when this was going on (hell, I don’t know if I was even listening to his podcast yet), but it was kind of refreshing to read that someone who knows him and respects and likes him as a person still felt like oh man he can be an asshole. I’ve thought that before as well. But she called him out on it, and eventually, he came around, or at least she feels like he did. I haven’t listened in ages, so I can’t attest to that. I almost want to look up the episode of Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell to watch her debate on rape jokes. I probably won’t though. Lazy. Anyhoo, don’t be me. Don’t be lazy. Read this book.