Lindy West started her writing career focused on comedy and popular culture at “The Stranger,” a Seattle weekly. But a funny thing happened on the way to a career of movie reviews and standup listings. West started writing about things she couldn’t avoid any more: About being fat. About finding rape jokes offensive and culturally corrosive. And about the vicious responses she got to her outspoken feminism.
West has written for Jezebel and The Guardian. She’s done radio pieces for This American Life. And her new book is called “Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman”
On Learning To Accept Her Body
“It wasn’t until I was in my early 20s that I really contextualized why I was so shy in my childhood. And I think it was because I knew — just through the cultural messaging that we all absorb — that my body was bigger than it was supposed to be … and so I sort of instinctively felt like I needed to make my presence smaller …. But gradually, as I got older, it started to chafe. And I started to think critically about those expectations for women to take up as little space as possible, and I started to pick those apart. And by the time I was in my mid-20s I had this sort of explosion of defiance, I guess, and I stopped. I just stopped. I stopped buying into it and I stopped apologizing for having a body and having opinions and having a presence in the world.”
On The Difference Between ‘Defiant’ And ‘Proud’
“It just is my body. I don’t really understand how to be proud of things that aren’t an achievement. It’s just a fact. I’m not proud of being white, you know? But I’m not ashamed. … You can reject the notion that you have to apologize, and that you have to punish yourself. And then you can take it beyond that. And it’s really empowering to say … ‘not only am I not an abomination for having this body, my body is good. My body does good things for me and I’m happy to live in it.’”
On Misogyny Online
“There’s always some reason why it’s not actually misogyny and why you’re overreacting and ‘oh I don’t hate women, I just hate you.’ And it’s not true. When you take it in aggregate, the disproportionate degree to which I am targeted compared to my male colleagues, it’s clear that there’s an underlying systemic issue going on.”
On How She Thinks Of Herself Now
I used to think of myself as an entertainer, I guess, as someone who wrote humor. And somehow that morphed into some version of activism. People call me an activist a lot, and I don’t know that it totally fits, but I just think of myself as a writer who tries to make a positive impact on the world. I try to use my platform to do good … and also hopefully make jokes.
To hear more from Think Out Loud’s conversation with Lindy West click play in the audio player at the top of the page.