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Summary and Analysis of

Shrill

Notes from a Loud Woman

Based on the Book by Lindy West

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Contents

Context

Overview

Summary

Cast of Characters

Direct Quotes and Analysis

Trivia

What’s That Word?

Critical Response

About Lindy West

For Your Information

Bibliography

Copyright

Context

Hailed for its witty, raucous, and unapologetic views on abortion, feminism, and body image, Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman contains essays of keen observation and analysis drawn from the author’s own personal life. Colliding with history, Shrill was published in 2016 during a presidential campaign that saw Hillary Clinton, a qualified and experienced candidate, lose to Donald Trump, who had been recorded openly talking about sexually assaulting women. The results of the election lent further credence to the book’s premise that our culture doesn’t believe, trust, take seriously, or even much like women.

Using her pen like a bullhorn, West points to hot-button issues such as body shaming, male supremacy in standup comedy, and the slow mainstreaming of rape culture that buried the sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby for decades. A contemporary anthem for anyone who’s been silenced for being opinionated, ambitious, and/or a woman (especially a fat, funny one), Shrill is teeming with wit and charm, but it’s also a cold slap in the face—a call to action against misogyny, rape injustice, abortion stigmatization, and fat discrimination.

Overview

Growing up shy and pudgy, Lindy West had few positive role models (but several negative ones, including Ursula the Sea Witch and the Queen of Hearts). Living in a culture that rewards slinky, demure girls and silences ones with big bodies and the personalities to match, Lindy makes herself small and undetectable. The message is loud and clear: “fat” is ugly.

Puberty is particularly awkward, especially since Lindy’s friends are growing tall and slender while she remains squat and hefty. If that wasn’t enough, her menstrual cycle thrusts her into a state of social anxiety. Soon Lindy learns to cope with her humiliations using humor, compassion, and practical wisdom.

Lindy’s college roommate is a beauty with superhuman sex appeal. Lindy begins looking at overweight bodies on the computer until she feels comfortable with them, leading to acceptance of her own self. She comes to see her body as a tool for political change.

After graduation, Lindy lands a job at Seattle’s alternative weekly newspaper The Stranger. She develops a voice and style all her own, but it’s a public feud with her boss that garners national attention. “Hello, I Am Fat” “outs” her as fat, opening a floodgate of Internet troll attacks. She attributes her activism to her idealistic father and her grit to her mother’s Nordic practicality.

Lindy’s blog posts for sites such as Jezebel spotlight abortion rights, fat shaming, and misogyny in pop culture. She exposes standup comedy—a world she loved since her high school days—for its male-privilege and anti-feminist atmosphere. Who says feminism can’t be funny? Apparently, a bunch of male comedians. After Lindy spars with a shock comic on TV, more online vitriol is unleashed, and the standup community ostracizes her.

Lindy and her best friend, Aham, become romantically involved and decide to move to Los Angeles together. The relationship deteriorates at the same time that Lindy’s father is dying from cancer. She returns to Seattle and, following her dad’s death, Aham and Lindy reunite. A public marriage proposal is followed by wedding plans that don’t include weight loss. On her wedding day Lindy stands fat and proud.

In 2013, a Tweet from a troll impersonating Lindy’s dead father nearly devastates her. Refusing to back down, she confronts the troll and receives a heartfelt apology from him. He even agrees to record an episode for the incredibly popular podcast and radio show This American Life, helping her shine a light on cyber-bullying. The CEO of Twitter stands publically with Lindy.

Speaking for diverse voices since her days at The Stranger, this period marks the beginning of many more victories in Lindy’s fight for equality and acceptance.