When I was an intern here, I was sitting in the office reading Slog one day, hoping they wouldn't make me leave even though I was done with all my work. Up popped a post headlined "Hello, I Am Fat," by Lindy. It started like this:
This is my body (over there—see it?). I have lived in this body my whole life. I have wanted to change this body my whole life. I have never wanted anything as much as I have wanted a new body. I am aware every day that other people find my body disgusting. I always thought that some day—when I finally stop failing—I will become smaller, and when I become smaller literally everything will get better (I've heard It Gets Better)! My life can begin! I will get the clothes that I want, the job that I want, the love that I want. It will be great! Think how great it will be to buy some pants or whatever at J. Crew. Oh, man. Pants. Instead, my body stays the same.
By the time I got halfway through that paragraph, tears were streaming down my face. The reaction took me by surprise—I'm not given to public crying jags, and I was desperate for the office to think I was Very Serious About My Internship. So I went and hid in the bathroom and sobbed. I'm actually tearing up just thinking about it, because it wasn't a small deal. It was a huge deal somehow, the way she wrote it—funny but righteous, carefully and smartly argued, incredibly personal (and vulnerable) but not in need of external validation. It was a call to arms, and it made me feel slightly less alone in the world.
"I would love to get to the acceptance and self-love phase of being a lady, just not there yet," I wrote her in a fangirlish e-mail I signed "Love (not in a creepy way!), Anna." I thanked her for "being there and then talking about it, because it's the only way any of us can see a way out, to see someone else get there and be okay."
I did eventually get a job here, and pretty soon after, Lindy left us. I was hella bummed! But what are you gonna do? People have to go start some shit in the world, and she had places to go. Reading her work on Jezebel, watching her articles (on dating, on compliments versus harassment, on rape jokes that don't suck) blaze across Facebook every couple of weeks—I thought, "I can't believe she can mix rage and comedy so fucking well." (Okay, honestly, I first thought "Squeeeee! Remember that one time I drove her to a Harry Potter exhibit at the science center?") Her writing has had a tangible impact on my life: My parents see Lindy's articles and call me up to have their first-ever conversation about fat-shaming; dude friends of mine start asking questions about sexual harassment that start with "So did you see that Lindy West article?" Sentences like "That is a weird monster you made up to torture yourself," from her dating manifesto, got me through real-life human interactions with more grace than I'd otherwise have had.
So now a bunch of shitheads on the internet are sooooper-dooooper pissed that she committed the awful crime of saying on TV that bad, victim-blaming jokes about rape really suck and contribute to a larger societal problem we call rape culture. Because when it comes to free speech, a comedian telling a joke is free speech, but a blogger saying that joke was awful is censorship. (Brilliant logic, dudes!)
If anyone's still worried about comedians being "silenced": This is what silencing looks like. Sorry, boys, but it's not going to work.
It's surprisingly easy to let internet trolls—and real-life assholes—shut you up. It's just self-protection; you can make a really good case to yourself that you have a right to rape-threat-free happiness, that it's okay if you set the torch down for a minute to take a breath, or set it down for good to just go live your life.
And yeah, Lindy, feel free to set it down for a rest anytime. But your words make my life better. All the time. I'm (a little tearfully) thankful for that, and figured that deserves to share the interweb-space with all the douchebags.