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Published by Harmonia Norah, 2017-06-21 07:48:55




Putting herself in the firing line of misogyny is Lindy
West’s way of ensuring other women don’t have to.
Jessica O’Sullivan meets the woman taking the
punches in order to challenge stereotypes.

ticks and stones may as a weapon. It’s an illusion, so if you
break my bones but just take that meaning out of it then
words will never hurt it doesn’t work anymore,” explains
West. “The title of my book – Shrill
“If you take theseme’. Who hasn’t – and the way that I self-identify as
fat, those are ways of reclaiming
S rattled off this rhyme terms that have been used to hurt or
diminish me and also women in
words back and useto teach a child to ignore verbal general. There’s nothing wrong with
being this big, there’s nothing wrong
taunts? And while our intentions

them without shame,can be well meaning, it ultimately

places the onus on the victim to

it knocks the legs outignore a personal attack, because
after all, words don’t inflict any with being shrill, and you can say
the same thing about other words
from under them”actual harm, do they? If only that
were true. We live in a world where like abortion. If you take these words

words still have power. They define, back and use them without shame,

isolate, segregate and subdue, and the time that they no longer it knocks the legs out from under them.”

have that effect is still very far away. Take internet trolls, they Getting to this place of self-acceptance, a place that allows

only have words to hurt, threaten and intimidate and yet they her to take horrific abuse from anonymous and not-so-

manage to do infinite damage. anonymous strangers was not an easy quest for someone who

But what if it was possible to take that power back? What was born a “clinically shy, terror-stricken, mouse person” and

if, rather than turn the other cheek, we could de-weaponise or one which she recounts through a series of personal essays in

diffuse certain words in order that they no longer had the her book. It’s also worth noting that West is not a masochist

power to maim? Enter Lindy West, self-proclaimed,“unflappable and neither is she fearless – rather she feels the fear, puts on

human vuvuzela” and wielder of words. If she’s not on your her mental flak jacket, and does it anyway.

radar, she should be. She has spent most of her writing career “The driving force behind my shift in thinking about myself

outwitting internet trolls, calling out the odiousness of rape was anger. I remember I was like, ‘This is bullshit, this is not

jokes and celebrating (rather than apologising for) her existence fair’ and also the awareness that it wasn’t just me, it was millions

as a successful, happy, fat woman. of people living like this. I find that indignation is a very

She has had every ‘fat chick’ barb directed at her, has shared galvanising emotion for me. It’s a more active feeling and

her experience of having an abortion, has weathered death launchpad than shame and sorrow, which are kind of passive

threats and rape threats (well, apart from those who commented and inert. It was this long, slow process of taking apart

that she was too fat to want to rape. “Oh really? Well maybe preconceived notions that society had taught me about myself

you should give me the list of the women you would rape so and my potential, and picking away at that.”

we can warn them as a public service.”) and has even been For West, her real life wasn’t going to begin in some distant

trolled from a Twitter account set up in her dead father’s name future where she was thin and happier as a result, her real life

with the sole purpose of harassing her. was now and realising that was a pivotal moment.“It took me

“The stigma associated with words is what makes them work a long time to even get to the point where I could hold some

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