The word “shrill” makes some people want to instinctively cover their ears, but Lindy West decided to make it the title to her 2016 book Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman.
The self-identified fat feminist will be reading from her book Saturday, 7 p.m., at the Hooker Auditorium at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley. The event is open to the public.
West said she chose the word for her recently published book of personal essays because she wants to reclaim it.
“You hear the word ‘shrill’ used over and over again — it’s a word we use to silence and punish ambitious women. It’s not a word we use against men,” she said during a telephone interview with the Advocate.
“The word “shrill” is supposed to diminish and discredit women’s contributions … It can be powerful to reclaim words that are used to hurt us and make it mine.”
West’s essays cover topics that include loving your body regardless of size and shape, menstruation, aging, being funny, and kicking trolls — all things women aren’t supposed to do. She writes in a conversational tone, blending personal anecdotes with history and context as well as some well-deserved frustration. There isn’t a plot here, but a lot of damn good points that will make you laugh, cry, and get determined to make change.
Ahead of coming to the Valley, the Advocate caught up with West — a columnist and comedian who you may have read in The Guardian, Esquire, Jezebel and other publications — for a quick chat about her work.
There are a lot of essays here. How did you chose the topics to address in your book?
Lindy: It sort of felt like I was writing for a long time and I wanted to sum up and, to an extent, close the door on some of these topics … As a feminist writer, so much of my time is spent begging to be seen as a human being and sort of dealing with the fall out of that and being a punchline feminist. I don’t want to spend my time writing about internet trolls — I have actual interests, but instead my beat is people harassing me and other people on the internet. … What I wanted to do with this book is to write it down and say: I’m not defending this anymore. You want to know what I think? Read this book; I’m going on to make things I care about, like comedy and dragons.
When do you think you became a feminist?
Lindy: In college — not that I was anti-feminist before that, I was just afraid of the term. It was so stigmatized. If you’re a teenage girl and you want boys to like you, you don’t call yourself a feminist — they hate men and they aren’t funny and they’re sort of this ugly wet blanket … I had this professor who went around the room and asked us all if we were feminists. We’d say no and he’d say: so, you don’t believe in equality of the sexes? Well, of course we do. Well, then, sorry, he said, you’re a feminist.
What can people expect at your reading on April 8?
Lindy: It’s usually really fun. I usually do a reading — I always read a funny chapter, I don’t like to be too dark, we’re trying to have a good time! Then I do a Q&A … Then there’s always a signing and I try to always give each person a moment and make a connection with each person. It’s fun. I have the best crowds at my events — good vibes and good people.
Contact Kristin Palpini at email@example.com.