Some people would tell you that Lindy West is a controversial figure. I would rather tell you that she’s an iconic one. I once had the pleasure of seeing her speak live in Dublin. She was doing a tour for her book “Shrill; Notes From a Loud woman” and I was so excited to discover that it was stopping just down the road from where I live. I can honestly say that it was one of the most enjoyable and inspirational events that I’ve ever been to. Afterwards, I absorbed Shrill and all I can say is that it taught me an awful lot about writing on the internet amongst many, many other things. Today I want to discuss one of my favourite feminist icons and a very big inspiration of mine.
I think that many Irish people will be surprised to hear that Lindy West is a self-described fat woman. We live in a country where the word fat is one of the dirtiest imaginable and a culture that hates fat women. Lindy proves how assertive she is through her defense of all bodies. She believes that everyone has a right to exist in whatever way, shape or form, without judgement and criticism from others. It shouldn’t be controversial to state that every person’s body is their own business, but in her experience, it has been.
Lindy has stated that Shrill is the book that she needed 15 years ago but didn’t have and it is most certainly the book that I needed at 18 years of age. Reading Shrill, I found myself getting extremely angry on Lindy’s behalf. The treatment that she’s gotten has been nothing less than despicable and I found my blood pressure rising with all of the different obstacles that she’s encountered. Threats of rape and death are a part of Lindy’s everyday job. People tell her that she should expect harassment when she’s writing about such causes on the internet. If you’re going to be an outspoken woman, then what do you expect?
The first thing Lindy did was write a blog post entitled “Hello, I am Fat” which will be linked in the description. This was written as a response to an article written by her boss, Dan Savage. Lindy, quite reasonably took issue with comments Savage made in a post entitled “Ban Fat Marriage.”
In it she said the following: “I get that you think you’re actually helping people and society by contributing to the fucking Alp of shame that crushes every fat person every day of their lives—the same shame that makes it a radical act for me to post a picture of my body and tell you how much it weighs. But you’re not helping. Shame doesn’t work. Diets don’t work. Shame is a tool of oppression, not change.”
Bear in mind that this was directed at her boss. She was completely unafraid of the consequences, because her boss was bashing fat people, and Lindy is a fat person. This was a strong declaration of Lindy’s pride in herself directed at her many cruel trolls. People who resent a fat woman that has the cheek to be outspoken in a world that wants to shut her up. In an interview she stated “If you let those people silence you, then you can’t advocate for yourself. And you can’t make your life better. And you can’t own your own life.”
Lindy is behind a number of causes, including being a key part of setting up the Shout Your Abortion campaign. She is now completely open about the time that she had to seek an abortion. She states that she was in a bad relationship with no money and so, in September 2010, she got an abortion. She’s quoted as saying “I took one pill, and then another, and lay in my bed for a night and a day, and then I wasn’t pregnant anymore. The procedure was a relief. Not being able to have it would have been the real trauma.”
She says that she set up the campaign because “the fact that even progressive, outspoken, pro-choice feminists feel the pressure to keep our abortions under wraps – to speak about them only in corners, in murmurs, in private with our closest confidantes – means that opponents of abortion get to define it however suits them best.” Although Lindy stated that her Twitter feed is clogged with pictures of bloody foetuses and death threats, the campaign has gotten an abundance of positive media attention.
And she would tell you that the reason for that is because the campaign is right. And frankly, I’m in complete agreement.
In 2013, Lindy tackled an extremely difficult topic, rape jokes. She called on comedians to stop making rape jokes that were far from humorous. She called on them to stop making light of horrific incidents that occur every single day. She called on them to stop promoting rape culture through their inconsiderate jokes.
The following is a quote from that fight. “Let me be clear: I don’t believe that previously non-raping audience members are going to take to the streets in a rape mob after hearing one rape joke. That’s an absurd and insulting mischaracterization. But I do believe that comedy’s current permissiveness around cavalier, cruel, victim-targeting rape jokes contributes to (not causes) a culture of young men who don’t understand what it means to take this stuff seriously.” Although she believes that there is a right way to make a rape joke, the ones she was hearing were often unfunny and offensive.
During this fight, she appeared on national television to debate with a comedian who did not agree with her about her stance on rape jokes. She received an absolutely horrific backlash, but in true Lindy West fashion, instead of giving into it she did one of the bravest things that I have ever seen. She sat in front of a camera and delivered in monotone the horrific and unrepeatable harassment that she received which I will of course link below.
In what was probably Lindy’s greatest challenge she appeared on the radio station “This American Life” to confront her worst ever troll. After a man used a Twitter account to harass her while impersonating her father who had recently died, she had one of the most interesting exchanges I have ever listened to in the idea. Her troll apologised profusely to her for what she’d done and she unexpectedly forgave him. Yet more proof of her amazing strength. I will again link the mentioned podcast in the description.
Another interesting aspect of Lindy’s work is her criticism of the diet industry. She’s previously stated that it “keeps women locked in this eternal battle against each other, where we’re ranking each other … it saps your brain-space, and it doesn’t fucking work. Which is why it’s such a successful industry. It doesn’t work.” She’s publicly criticised shows like “The Biggest Loser” for presenting an unhealthy and unachievable method of achieving weight-loss.
I honestly think that I would follow Lindy West into war and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for her career. I have no doubt that she can survive any challenge that she’s faced with as she’s one of the most resilient people that I’ve ever come across. If I can maintain even a fraction of the strength that she’s displayed throughout her career, I will be ecstatic.