Lindy West grew up a big girl in a world that tells women they should be small. She grew up with opinions in a world where women should be quiet. The subtitle of this book suggests a collection of essays, but it is really more of a memoir that is both humorous and heart-wrenching. From internet trolls to abortion clinics, Shrill takes you through the experiences that made Lindy West loud, and unapologetically so.
“To be shrill is to reach above your station; to abandon
your duty to soothe and please; in short, to be heard.”
Lindy West somehow manages to navigate serious topics with sincerity and humour simultaneously. She charts her growth from a quiet teenager obsessed with trying to hide or ‘fix’ her body, to a woman who refuses to be quiet and fights for what she believes is right. She argues for her beliefs with a relentlessness that is inspiring. When it comes to issues that affect a large and broad group of people, it’s sometimes easier to examine the bigger picture and forget the individuals living within these issues, so the highly personal aspect of this book was really appealing to me. It’s been a long time since I paid attention to most male comedians. I’d actually forgotten just how misogynistic the comedy scene can be, especially how issues such as rape and domestic violence are trivialised and mocked in the under the guise of “but it’s a joke!” so I particularly enjoyed Lindy’s exploration of what it was like to be a female comic in a male-dominated industry, particularly before the #MeToo movement.
I read this shortly after reading Sofie Hagen’s Happy Fat, which invited inevitable comparisons between the two. I think Sofie even includes Shrill as recommended further reading at the end of Happy Fat. Both are excellent reads and I loved them equally, but Shrill is more than just about Lindy West’s weight. It’s about her voice, and how she was repeatedly told to contain it, whether the topic is fatness, violence against women, or comedy. It’s also far more personal; whilst Sofie combines statistics and factual evidence with anecdotes and advice, Lindy focuses far more on her own personal experiences. Both have merit, and both were a joy to read.
Rating: 4 / 5 stars