In the last few years, “body positivity” and “fat shaming” have become buzzwords. “It’s interesting,” says filmmaker Lindsey Averill, whose new documentary Fattitude (co-created with filmmaker Viridiana Lieberman) dives into the discrimination fat people face in their daily lives. And yet, while more people are realizing that they should love their bodies and not shame other bodies, fatphobia and size discrimination still persist.
Averill’s take: “The [body positive] movement seems to be a lot about beauty and fashion and not so much about equality for fat people.”
Body positivity may be on the rise as a concept, but fatphobia is everywhere: in the media we take in, the fashion we wear, in the workplace, and in simple day-to-day life. According to a study by researchers at Duke University, our weight-based biases — which often lead to bullying and discrimination — are firmly in place between age nine and 11.
This phenomenon is what prompted Averill and Lieberman to begin working on Fattitude in 2014, before body positivity became part of mainstream conversation. Three years later, the movie will officially premiere in New York City in November.
“Fattitude is a film but it is also a call to action,” Averill tells us by email. “We want people to realize that all the shame associated with living in a fat body is culturally created and that escaping from the shadow of that shame is about fighting to change the culture, not the individual fat person.“
The documentary, which started on “a whim and a prayer” as Averill describes it, went into production in 2014 with the first two interviews (of eating disorder activist Claire Mysko and fat-positive photographer Substantia Jones) in Lieberman’s living room. Flying high on the excitement of these initial interviews, they launched their own Kickstarter to make the feature film come to life.
However, the making of the film wasn’t without its bumps. In 2015, during the course of production, Averill and Liberman were doxxed and sent death threats simply because they were two women advocating for fat people and making a film rooted in social justice. Averill, who wrote about the experience on Refinery 29, shared in an e-mail to Brit + Co that, while terrified, ultimately she and Liberman ignored the harassment.
“The work we are doing is needed, and we couldn’t be weighed down by [the internet trolls’] violence and aggression,” she says.
Fattitude broaches sensitive subject matter in an honest and educational manner, featuring a who’s who of folks involved with the fat activist community, including Dr. Linda Bacon, Marilyn Wann, Virgie Tovar, Lindy West, Tess Holliday, and Sonya Renee Taylor. Drawing on these diverse perspectives, the film offers a smorgasbord of information related to weight bias and fat injustice in hopes of making people more aware of how fat hate and fatphobia are a cultural problem.
“We want people to realize that all the shame associated with living in a fat body is culturally created and that escaping from the shadow of that shame is about fighting to change the culture,” says Averill, “not the individual fat person.”
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