By Morgan Jerkins
Nov. 5, 2019
THE WITCHES ARE COMING
By Lindy West
272 pp. Hachette Books. $27.
The writer and feminist extraordinaire Lindy West has never been one to shy away from conflict. Whether it’s confronting online trolls or debating comedians about whether rape jokes belong in the “cultural conversation,”
West has long managed to balance fearlessness with vulnerability — the kind that’s a relative of honesty, which is the best kind. And she’s prolific, with essays and articles appearing in The New York Times, The Stranger, Jezebel and The Guardian; plus her best-selling memoir, “Shrill,” and the Hulu series it inspired; and now, her essay collection, “The Witches Are Coming,” which is a manifesto for the post-Obama, pre-impeachment-investigation, #MeToo era.
At least, it’s a manifesto for some people.
… The problem is, West’s “you” feels heavily focused on white, cisgender men while overlooking the fact that white women can be just as invested in white supremacy as their male counterparts. …
O.K., fine. She’s pointing out that women can be pathologized for their intelligence and that fat women are a constant source for jokes. This may be true. But West never connects the dots to the bigger picture, where white women have been overrepresented in media since time immemorial while people of color — irrespective of size or intellect — are still fighting for visibility and freedom from menial, poverty-stricken or criminal roles (or all of the above). …
True and true. But West herself willfully ignores the ways that prejudice against the L.G.B.T. community intersects with so many other kinds of oppression — or else, just as damning, she simply doesn’t see it. In a chapter trying to center the humanity of L.G.B.T. people, it seems odd that she skates over the death of Muhlaysia Booker, the 23-year-old black trans woman who was murdered in May in Dallas, just a 90-minute drive from Waco. West never acknowledges the epidemic of violence toward black trans women, and the single sentence about Booker feels perfunctory to the point of offensiveness.
Morgan Jerkins is the author of “This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America.”