Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Book Reviews: Shrill

I can always appreciate a good Slurpee reference and Lindy West, in her memoir, Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman includes one in a triple whammy:

"only now once a month hot brown blood just glops and glops out of your private area like a broke Slurpee machine. Forever...Don't worry, to deal, you just have to cork up your hole with this thing that's like a severed toe made of cotton..."

Which pretty much sets the stage for the rest of the book.

Lindy West is a phenomenal writer and covers abortion, aforementioned periods, being fat, misogyny in comedy and vitriol on the Internet. Half the time, the reader has to laugh because she is goddamned funny and the other half, you suck in your breath because shit, that's too real.

"it was just part of the lifelong, pervasive alienation from my body that every woman absorbs to some extent. Your body is never yours. Your body is your enemy. Your body is gross. Your body is wrong. Your body is broken. Your body isn't what men like. Your body is less important than a fetus. Your body should be 'perfect' or it should be hidden."

One of the most touching moments (and there are many, including tearing up toward the end when she speaks beautifully about her father and the subsequent troll encounter) is when she starts to realize she doesn't have to hide her body (even though it was fat and not the 'ideal' size) any longer:

"What if my body didn't have to be a secret? What if I was wrong all along-what if this was all a magic trick, and I could just decide I was valuable and it would be true? Why, instead, had I left that decision in the hands of strangers who hated me? Denying people access to value is an incredibly insidious form of emotional violence, one that our culture wields aggressively and liberally to keep marginalized groups small and quiet." (Emphasis mine)

Value being denied to people is one of the main themes that is referenced throughout the book and she delves into just how pervasive it is. Her words, throughout the book, are a rallying cry; both for those who are disenfranchised, due to race, body size, or gender identity and against those who seek to shame, humiliate and even kill those who speak out.

She tackles the subjects, matter-of-factly, bluntly and sometimes humorously, but without being overly dense. Abortion rights and how she "believe[s] unconditionally in the right of people with uteruses to decided what grows inside of their body and feeds on their blood and endangers their life and reroutes their future" are discussed with the same ease as her landlord once walking in on her in the shower with insurance appraisers (which lends itself to the fact that the word boners and insurance are uttered in the same sentence).

She ends the book talking about world building and how saying no can be one of the ways that happens. "I say no to men who feel entitled to my attention...I say no to religious zealots who insist that I'm less important than an embryo...It's a way of kicking down the boundaries that society has set for women-be compliant, be a caregiver, be quiet-and erecting my own."

An absolute necessity in American society today and if I may add one final thought: A-fucking-men.

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