Shrill: Notes from a loud woman

If you have a vagina, you should read this book. Also, if you have a penis, you should read this book. If you have something in between or have added or subtracted to it, you should also read this book.

Because this is a book that everyone should read. Shrill: Notes from a loud woman by Lindy West.

shrill

As an American, my country embarrasses me. I left the United States 13 months ago and while I should have seen this coming, I lived in my own privileged bubble. And now, it appalls me. And I hate to admit it, but I’m glad I’m gone. I know it was the easy way out. Which makes this book and the conversations Lindy West is having all the more important.

Instead of trying to review this book and tell you what I loved and why I loved it, I’m merely going to let Lindy’s words speak for themselves. And while I think these excerpts are powerful in and of themselves, putting them in the context of the book in its entirety makes them breathtaking.

On being fat:

“So what do you do when you’re too big, in a world where bigness is cast not only as aesthetically objectionable, but also as a moral failing? You fold yourself up like origami, you make yourself smaller in other ways, you take up less space with your personality, since you can’t with your body.”

“If you really want change to happen, if you really want to ‘help’ fat people, you need to understand that shaming an already-shamed population is, well, shameful.”

“As a woman, my body is scrutinized, policed, and treated as a public commodity. As a fat woman, my body is also lampooned, openly reviled, and associated with moral and intellectual failure. My body limits my job prospects, access to medical care and fair trails, and—the one thing Hollywood movies and Internet trolls most agree on—my ability to be loved.”

On being a woman:

“Women matter. Women are half of us. When you raise every woman to believe that we are insignificant, that we are broken, that we are sick, that the only cure is starvation and restraint and smallness; when you pit women against one another, keep us shackled by shame and hunger, obsessing over our flaws rather than our power and potential; when you leverage all of that to sap our money and our time—that moves the rudder of the world, it steers humanity toward conservatism and walls and the narrow interests of men, and it keeps us adrift in waters where women’s safety and humanity are secondary to men’s pleasure and convenience.”

“The most significant source of my adolescent period anxiety was the fact that, in America in 2016 (and far more so in 1993), acknowledging the completely normal and mundane function of most uteruses is still taboo…The taboo is so strong that while we’ve all seen swimming pools of blood shed in horror movies and action movies and even on the news, when a woman ran the 2015 London Marathon without a tampon, photos of blood spotting her running gear made the social media rounds to near universal disgust. The blood is the same—the only difference is where it’s coming from. The disgust is at women’s natural bodies, not at blood itself.”

“My abortion was a normal medical procedure that got tangled up in my bad relationship, my internalized fatphobia, my fear of adulthood, my discomfort with talking about sex; and one that, because of our culture’s obsession with punishing female sexuality and shackling women to the nursery and the kitchen, I was socialized to approach with shame and describe only in whispers. But the procedure itself was the easiest part. Not being able to have one would have been the real trauma.”

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Kakum, Elmina Castle, and Trump

Our base for the first half of the trip was Ko-Sa Beach Resort, about 20 minutes west of Elmina. We love living in the city – access to more goods, events, and people – but every now and then it’s nice to escape, and Ko-Sa provided a perfect location.

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From there we drove to Kakum National Park, a tropical forest reserve. The park is quite a ways from our school – about four hours one day and another hour and a half the second day, but yet we found ourselves crossing paths with one of my students. Moments like that always make Ghana feel much smaller than it should be!

After a short hike into the reserve, we found ourselves at the park’s canopy walkway. It is 350 meters long and is suspended between seven treetops. Ranging between 40 and 50 meters high, it offers incredible views of the surrounding foliage.

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Then, because all trips seem rushed at the beginning, we were off and headed to Elmina. We had driven through the town the night before and now were back to tour St. George Castle (also known as Elmina Castle). The Portuguese built this castle in 1482 and it was the first trading post built on the Gulf of Guinea. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was one of the most important stops on the route of the Atlantic slave trade.

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On being a woman: On being hated

Living abroad can be difficult, for men and women alike. Both sexes are treated like outsiders, miss family and friends back home, struggle with the loss of creature comforts, and can find it difficult to cope alone.

But for women, there’s more. As a woman living in Ethiopia, I constantly dread leaving my home. And I’ve had to carry this around with me for the last two years. It’s not something I talk about with many back home, mostly because I wouldn’t know how to say it, where to start. And I was afraid people wouldn’t understand, that they’d find me weak or ungrateful or exaggerative.

Luckily, I’ve met some absolutely incredible women (and men!) through my service here and one of them has spoken out about the treatment we receive in Ethiopia. She is heartbreakingly honest about the struggles she faces, I face, every foreign woman I know faces.

Her blog post is not easy to read, but neither is life here. And I wouldn’t be doing my duty if I only told you about the coffee ceremonies I attend, the projects I complete at my school, the travel I’m able to experience. Those are all aspects of living in Ethiopia, but the harassment is an aspect of my life too. Sometimes the largest aspect.

So, if you’re interested in what life is really like for foreign women living in Ethiopia (and, I suppose, in many non-Western countries), read this blog post:

On Being Hated by Danielle Luttrull