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The Shrill Truth
By Ghia Vitale
Shrill is a truthful representation of what many fat women (including myself) go through every day. I recommend this series not only to fat people, but also to thin people who want more insight into what fat women experience all the time. Warning: Spoilers ahead!
Shrill is a web television series that’s available on Hulu. The series is based on a non-fiction book called Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West. I found out about Shrill through reading the body positive community's discussions about it. I’ve never read the book, but I fell in love with this series after seeing Annie Easton (Aidy Brant) deal with fat-shaming strangers in the first episode. It reminded me of how people often act like fat bodies are public domain. They think fat people deserve criticism and insults from strangers. It’s a harsh but true reality of being plus size.
As I was watching Shrill, I couldn’t believe how much I related to it. Based on other reviews I’ve read, a lot of other fat women feel the same way. Most importantly, it’s a series that doesn’t involve a fat character “redeeming herself” through weight loss. Instead, Annie finds happiness and empowerment by making peace with her body.
Annie’s experiences mirror the things plus size women experience all the time. Annie works for a fictional paper called The Weekly Thorn. Whenever she writes an article, people troll her and make fun of her size. Even though writing is an art of words, her body is still at the forefront of her work. As a fat writer myself, I, too, often find my body being discussed in the comment section of articles that have nothing to do with my body. Even if the article is about my fat body, I should be able to exist in a public space without getting fat-shamed, but that isn’t the case. Fatphobia affects nearly everything I do, including my experiences as a writer.
Fat women experience certain things that thin women don’t experience, especially in the dating world. Most thin women I know haven’t had to deal with a guy they slept with forcing them to take the back door out so his friends wouldn’t see them leaving. However, that’s exactly what Annie dealt with until she put her foot down and demanded more respect. Many fat women (myself included) know what it’s like to be someone’s dirty secret. Many people think that being associated with a fat woman is embarrassing and shameful. These same people want to date and sleep with fat women without making their relationships “public” by being seen with them.
As a fat woman, I’ve been treated like shit so many times, I became jaded and numb to it. I have to work on sticking up for myself almost constantly. People expect me to take accept bad behavior because I’m a fat girl. I’ve noticed people use my fatness as a license to treat me with minimal respect. However, I’ll never tolerate someone keeping their relations with me a secret ever again.
I noticed Annie deals with a lot of bad behavior from Ryan (Luca Jones). She has to ask him if he was sleeping with another woman for him to come clean about it. He claims he didn’t know Annie wanted them to be exclusive. Yet when Annie slept with another person shortly afterwards, Ryan flipped out and got jealous.
As a non-monogamous person, I know that being upfront and honest about your desire for non-monogamy is important. Ryan didn’t do this. As someone who claims to be cool with non-monogamy, his shock and despair after finding out Annie had sex with someone else is not only hypocritical, but selfish. It’s like he didn’t think the fat chick could get laid despite the fact he was sleeping with her. Unfortunately, a lot of people assume fat women should be more accepting of bad behavior like dishonesty than other people are, the kind of behaviors no one wants to be subjected to. It’s another way of trying to steal emotional labor from fat women.
News flash: Fat women don’t owe you shit.
Still, I think Annie is such a badass. She faces fat-shaming and discrimination, but still has the guts to do brave things. She often stands up for herself when people put down her size. My jaw dropped at some of the things she does. For example, she stands up to her fatphobic boss, Gabe (John Cameron Mitchell) by publishing a fat positive article without his permission. Workplace discrimination is a painful reality for fat people. I hope Annie inspires other fat women to stand up for themselves and love their bodies. Shrill raises awareness of fatphobic discrimination, something that can help dismantle the systems that hold it in place.
As a fat woman, I thought Shrill was refreshing to watch. It’s nice to see a plus size protagonist take the spotlight. I look forward to a day when we see more positive fat representation in the media. I’m glad the series has an overall message of body positivity. I hope to see more of Shrill in the future.
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