Book ClubFeminism

Shrill by Lindy West

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.

Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia, science-loving artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics and is currently in love with pottery. Daily maker of art and leader of Mad Art Lab. Support her on Patreon. Tip Jar is here.

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  1. I’m really sorry that you and others have had to go through the shit you have. Looking forward to reading the book!

  2. I finished Shrill last night and can’t recommend it highly enough. I found it at times sad and at times hilarious. I’m grateful West is such a great spokesperson for many of my values, and I’m inspired by her activism. She’s a master at persuasion and making things better. She’s given me a lot to think about.

    Lindy West would make a great interview guest on The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe. Wait, given the SGU’s fawning interview with Michael Shermer as he hawked his book on morality at TAM, and the reverence with which its hosts treated Richard Dawkins, after he Twitter-incited harassment against *another* young, relatively powerless woman, an interview with Lindy West might taint their brand.

    1. They didn’t seem fawning over Dawkins when I listened to the episode about that. I certainly didn’t like the way they glossed over the fact that the reason for his disinvite was re-posting something targeting a specific real person as part of a very real harassment campaign. They missed the point framing it as “social justice versus free speech”.

  3. I’m about half way through the book this morning. Anyone else just starting?

    I empathize with a lot of how she feels about be unpicked and how she feels about her body and it being seen. The style is really engaging and funny. I share her 3rd grade experience (although much younger), but I did throw up on a desk in middle school because I had my hand up and the teacher was ignoring me.
    I eventually had to give up and skip the chapter on periods after managing about a third of it. I’m not sure if that’s due to patriarchal conditioning or really disliking bodily function humor or both.

    1. I find it so fascinating that people get freaked out by talk about periods. It’s one half step away from being upset when women breast feed in public.

      A natural function that helps humans procreate. People need to talk about periods MORE.

      PS: I had my period while reading the book. #solidarity #dontfeartheuterus

      1. Is that really the same thing though? I’m not freaked out by periods in general, when they happen in close proximity, or discussions of them. I don’t shame people to not talk about them or leave nasty 1-star reviews on amazon talking about unnecessary language.
        Generally though if anyone describes anything coming out of them as “just glop[ing] and glop[ing] out of your private area like a broken Slurpee”. Substitute any bodily substance and any private area, regardless of how necessary or common to the human condition either is, is like fingernails on a chalkboard.
        I guess I’d like it to be ok for me to find really graphic descriptions of bodily functions not my thing as opposed to a sign of not being enlightened enough:P

  4. Read through the harassment campaign. I don’t have any personal experience that compares, but it sounds terrible. Again it’s awful that you and others have had to endure that and particularly that so many people don’t take it seriously.
    I really empathized with the discussion around comedy and the one around fat shaming. It’s so frustrating to constantly hit that brick wall that (often gleefully) rejects empathy. I have personally (on a smaller level by less famous people obviously) had pretty much those exact discussions (free speech! You don’t know comedy! fat being unhealthy is a fact. why don’t you like facts?). It’s like the conversation goes on autopilot regardless of what you are actually saying>:(
    The discussion about her father dying of cancer had me in tears on the bus.
    Lindy really knows how to write about her experiences in a way that feels particularly relatable.

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