Seattle's Lindy West Brings Women's Issues to Light Online
“Jane Fonda hugged me.” Columbia City–based writer, performer and activist Lindy West still can’t quite believe she got a squeeze from one of her idols, but there is video evidence from the Women’s Media Awards, held in October in New York City. West, a Seattle native, former writer for The Stranger and now full-time writer for feminist blog Jezebel.com, received the Social Media Award (presented by Fonda) for her smart and seriously funny online essays about gender dynamics, social justice, politics, body image and other women’s issues. The 31-year-old West gained fame last summer when she wrote a Jezebel column explaining to comedians why rape jokes at the expense of rape victims are not funny—a point that might seem obvious, but which resulted in a televised debate (on W. Kamau Bell’s Totally Biased) with comedian Jim Norton and subsequently, a viral spew of rape threats from commenters claiming nothing should be off-limits in comedy. “This happens to women all over the Internet, every day,” West says, regarding the violent verbal attacks. But after the online frenzy cooled to a simmer, she was heartened to see major comedians she respects, such as Patton Oswalt, publicly support a paradigm shift. However, West says she doesn’t want to be “the rape lady” forever, adding, “I write political stuff, but about 40 percent of the time, it’s fart jokes.”
Need to Know
1. West is a contributing writer on two recently published books: The Stranger’s How to Be a Person and The Book of Jezebel: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Lady Things. She is currently at work on a book of humorous essays.
2. Regarding the ridiculous yet ongoing debate about whether women can be funny, West says, “Women use humor the exact same way men do. It’s just that men are taught to be loud about it.”
3. She recommends two new female-focused live comedy showcases in Seattle: The Comedy Womb (Belltown, 2322 Second Ave.; comedywomb.com) and Wine Shots comedy happy hour at The Rendezevous (Belltown, 2322 Second Ave.; 206.441.5823; Facebook: “Doghead in the Door Productions”)
4. Watch West host the live storytelling show “The Moth” every first Thursday at the Fremont Abbey Arts Center ($8; sign up at 6:30 p.m., doors open at 7 p.m. 4272 Fremont Ave. N; 206.414.8325; themoth.org).
BEHIND THE SCENES OF OUR SHOOT
For our profile of writer/performer/activist Lindy West, photographer Hayley Young wanted to capture the idea of West as being under attack—but comfortable in the position. She imagined a woman at a witch-burning stake—decked to the nines and daring all comers. But finding a stake in 2013 Seattle isn’t easy. So Young and her assistant John Vicory picked up a 150-pound cedar log (and firewood) in Port Townsend and built their own pyre on West’s family’s property in Quilcene. They worked against the dying of the light to build their set, and had a 15-minute window of gorgeous sunset and views of Quilcene Bay to capture what we think is a pretty indelible image.