It’s true that you don’t really know what it feels like to be targeted with the nonstop deluge of obsessive online harassment until it happens to you. How it seeps into your life, how it is real life. It has happened to me. It has happened to other women who write for this blog and it’s also happened to Lindy West.
Lindy just wrote a book called Shrill that is so powerfully funny and also eloquently puts into crisp perspective what it means to be an outspoken woman on the internet.
I for real can not recommend this book enough to my fellow friends and sisters on the intertubes. Lindy tells it like it is, before, during and after a rise to literary and internet fame in such a beautifully, easy to relate-to way, that I feel like for the first time that yeah, maybe you lucky lurkers out there who have never been targeted with online abuse might for once actually be able to understand what it is like and how some of us learn to deal with it.
I was honored to have Lindy share with me just a smidgen of the harassment she received a few years back when I created the Woman’s Room Online art exhibition. A smidgen means I could cover walls with it. I was trying to do in a visual art installation form a similar thing to what she has brilliantly put into words. I wanted other people, who didn’t understand harassment, to at least for a moment, feel what it’s like.
The book Shrill shares part of Lindy’s childhood years up until her well-known, loud-and-proud present incarnation that is touching, empowering and insightful and delivered with that thoughtful and funny razor-sharp wit that has allowed so many of us to fall in love with her writing over the years. She has such a fantastic ability of making you laugh while making you think. Her writing feels like you are sitting and talking with a good friend.
The book explains why so many trolls online have targeted her and women like her with vicious hatred. She enlightens us all with the strange tale of the events leading up to the time when she actually had a conversation on This American Life with one of the trolls who posed online as her dead father. It’s mind expanding for anyone who wants to understand what life-events and what motivation is behind the psyche of an online troll.
I started this book just before I left for Maker Fair this weekend and I had finished by the time my plane was landing back in Los Angeles, tears streaming does my cheeks as I nodded in understanding. It’s so goddam real and on the mark you guys! Finally someone had put into words what I could only put into my art. Held in my hand was a small book that I felt like had literally made a HUGE difference in my life. Someone else not only understands what it is like to live a creative life as a woman online but this someone else has encouraged my art in the past and has now encouraged me to continue making public art. Thank you so, so much Lindy!
Go read Lindy West’s book now and keep speaking up! Shrill- Notes From a Loud Woman is available on Amazon.
PS: My women’s group is having a bookclub meetup about this book next month. If you would like to join us to chat about it, join our Meetup and RSVP.
Featured image by my friend Liz.