Words

Shrill

Lindy West is living out loud

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The word “shrill,” evocative and onomatopoetic, conjures high-pitched, grating voices. It’s used derogatorily, and it’s often aimed at women.

Author Lindy West re-appropriates it in her book Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, a memoir that’s as funny as it is poignant. West is a former movie reviewer for Seattle’s The Stranger whose social commentary regularly appears in The Guardian, the New York Times, This American Life, Cosmopolitan, and Jezebel, among others.

She lets loose in longer form, with raucous, delightfully profane chapters recounting her childhood and adolescence and showing how she grew more adept at raising her voice to speak up on issues that mattered to her.

A core part of West’s identity is her weight. She writes heart-breakingly about a time when even the seatbelt extender on the airplane was not sufficient, and her panic and pain at having to squeeze into a seat. She eventually learns to embrace the term “fat,” and to find strength in her size.

She writes, “The breadth of my shoulders makes me safe. I am unassailable. I intimidate. I am a polar icebreaker. I walk and climb and lift things, I can open your jar, I can absorb blows—literal and metaphorical—meant for other women.”

West took some big hits when she penned an article for Jezebel entitled “How to Make a Rape Joke.” West attempted to find a middle ground between strident feminists who do not think rape is a laughing matter, period, and obtuse First Amendment supporters who claim their rights are violated (get it?) if they aren’t “allowed” to share their nasty, vitriolic humor.

According to West, jokes that poke fun at the rapist, not the victim, are fair game, as are ones that point out how frightening it can be to be a woman, or how oblivious some men can be about this. She listed several examples, cushioned it all with plenty of disclaimers and generally came across as reasonable.

Yet a corner of the internet exploded, and crude threats and insults rained down on West by the hundreds. They attacked her weight, her intellect and her gender, even saying she was “too disgusting to get raped.” One vile troll went so far as to create a fake Twitter account posing as West’s dead father. This level of harassment went way over the line, and how West addressed it (and ultimately received an apology from her attacker) makes for powerful reading.

Equally fascinating are West’s dialogues with comics and other powerful men she once admired (yes you, Dan Savage) and her honest and loving explorations of her relationships with her father and her husband.

Christine Perkins is the executive director of the Whatcom County Library System. She serves on the programming committee for Bellingham City Club.

More Words...
Hope Never Dies
A bromance for the ages

Joe Biden in retirement is not a pretty picture: grouting bathroom tile, napping and watching Barack’s globetrotting adventures with the likes of Bradley Cooper and Justin Trudeau on cable television. Barack has yet to call him and he feels the sting as would a jilted lover. “No…

more »
Activism for Kids
Three ways to make a difference

Someone you know went to a march this summer.

It was a pretty big deal, and it sounded like fun. It was a time for people to gather and take advantage of their rights. It’s something you’d like to do, too, someday, and with the following three books, you’ll see how you can start…

more »
Eyes on Flint
A mystery and an expose

The toxic water supply in Flint, Michigan, which exposed as many as 42,000 children under 2 years of age to lead poisoning, was a major media story a few years back.

Ingestion of high dosages of lead, particularly among infants, results in cognitive impairment, attention and mood…

more »
Events
Today
Eat Local Month

10:00am|Whatcom County

Vendovi Tours

10:00am|Vendovi Island

Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

La Cage Aux Folles

7:30pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

The Wind in the Willows

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Rabbit Ride

8:00am|Fairhaven Bicycle

Brunch on the Bay

10:00am|Bellingham Cruise Terminal

Edison Farmers Market

10:00am|Edison Granary

Banned Books Week

10:30am

Langar in Lynden

11:00am|Guru Nanak Gursikh Gurdwara

Brunch and Learn

11:00am|Ciao Thyme

Your Vote Counts! Block Party

12:00pm|Depot Market Square

Audubon at the Museum

1:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

South Side Stories

2:00pm|Historic Fairhaven

Trivia Time

3:30pm|Boundary Bay Brewery

Waiting for the Whales

4:00pm|Village Books

Not-Creepy Gathering for People Who Are Single

6:00pm|Boundary Bay Brewery

Moon Walk

6:30pm

Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1
Tomorrow
Eat Local Month

10:00am|Whatcom County

Vendovi Tours

10:00am|Vendovi Island

Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Banned Books Week

10:30am

Baker Lake Cleanup Signup Deadline

8:00am|Baker Lake

Wheelchair Gangball

3:30pm|Bloedel Donovan

Monday Night Pizza

5:30pm|Ciao Thyme Commons

Books on Tap

6:30pm|El Agave 2

Open Mic Night

7:00pm|Village Books

Guffawingham

9:00pm|Firefly Lounge

Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Acrobat
Tuesday
Eat Local Month

10:00am|Whatcom County

Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Banned Books Week

10:30am

Rainbow Reads Book Club

3:00pm| Ferndale Library

All-Paces Run

6:00pm|Fairhaven Runners

Bellingham Reads

6:30pm|Bellingham Public Library

Skagit Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Bayview Civic Hall

Seabird Struggles

7:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Beginning Square Dance Lessons

7:00pm|Ten Mile Grange

Warlbers and Woodpeckers

7:00pm|Village Books

Comedy Open Mic

7:30pm|Shakedown

see our complete calendar »

Trove Web Village Books Acrobat Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1