VIVA LA FATTITUDE!: WHY I'M MAKING A DOCUMENTARY ABOUT FATNESS // LINDSEY AVERILL

Lindsey Averill is one of my personal heroes. She is half of the brilliance behind Fattitude; a budding documentary about the truth behind fat discrimination. Just in case you aren't sold on the prevalence of fat discrimination, let me share what has recently happened since the launch of the Fattitude Kickstarter: Lindsey and every person involved in the making of the movie have been personally attacked by cyber bullies who have posted their personal information with encouragement of harassment. The bullies have also taken to Twitter and YouTube to spout some of the ugliest opinions based on nothing else but a body size. This along with a barrage of phone calls at homes, partners works, and other associated places they have also ordered pizzas and other items to have delivered out of spite. You can read more on what has happened and how to help here.

This doesn't intimidate me, though my heart goes out to those who have to deal with this reality, but in fact it makes me even more determined to help make this movie happen. The extreme hatred has proven even more that Fattitude must be made and that social change is needed so that all bodies can exist in a positive, supportive, and safe world. 
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So, I’m going to tell you my story – but I want to tell you the end first: I figured our how to love my body! That said, I trekked through a lot of bullshit on my way to body positivity and I don’t want other people to have to swim in that body hating garbage, so I’m trying to change all that with a film I’m making. It’s called Fattitude and you can check it out here.


In the grand scheme of things I had it relatively easy. I was born in 1978 to a warm, white, generous, and thin upper-middle class family. I didn’t lack for anything. Literally, my experience was so grounded, supported and wholesome that I’ve been known to rollout quips like, “my childhood was filled with rainbows and cotton candy, and if all children had parents like mine then world peace would be right around the corner.” I’m not trying to tell you that I lived in the glowing light of patriarchal perfection. No right-wing conservative thinker would perceive my parents as perfect. Their marriage failed. They fought. They were open about sex and bodies. They cursed and made a million mistakes. They got drunk. They did my homework when I was tired and cranky. And they loved me, every minute, all the time. That said, for my sake (according to them), they always wished I wasn’t fat. 

I saw my first diet guru and began to count calories before entering puberty. I went to a private high school, where fifteen-year-old girls had personal trainers and I was always picked last for team sports. I was the heaviest girl in my class and had endearing nicknames like “wonder blob,” a moniker that came complete with a jingle modeled after a Wonder Bread commercial. I was never the lead in the school play, but I was often cast in roles that were originally scripted for men, the steward in Anything Goes became the stewardess and the father in The Fantasticks became the mother. In fact, once, while I was standing there, my mother complained that I deserved a shot at a leading role, and the school drama teacher exclaimed, “Well really, Lindsey isn’t exactly an ingénue, you know.” I was a junior in high school and I weighed 160 lbs. (Just out of curiosity – what’s not ingénue-y about that?) I remember another instance when a good friend relayed rumors that a guy or two thought I would be the prettiest girl in our class if I would just, “lose a few,” and when I was sixteen the catcall hollered my way was heifer.  Fat was my identity but I denied it. 

My fat body was easy to deny because I lived in a world where no one else was fat, but everyone complained that they were, particularly the women. It didn’t matter if you were looking at the real people in the world around me, my mother, grandmother, aunts and friends or at the women in the television shows I watched, the novels I read or the movies I dreamed of being in, ALL the women called themselves fat, felt fat, repelled fatness, and feared getting “fatter.” Fat was the enemy. We were all fat. Only I was fatter. 

Fat was something that made you unfeminine, unwanted, not sexy and ultimately unsuccessful. So, I was sure that my fat was a phase. All I needed was that one moment of will power – to truly dedicate myself to diet and exercise and it would all change.

When I was seventeen, I neared the end of my time at the aforementioned top-notch private school. Graduation from this elite educational experience required an all white dress and in those days wearing all white meant dealing with the embarrassment of teetering down the graduation aisle feeling like the stay puff marshmallow man. The metaphor here is intentional, rather than a young, thin, nubile teenage girl, I envisioned myself as the likeness of a white, creepily happy, bloated man/monster – completely disconnected from all notions of femininity, youth, beauty, and health. Of course as a teen registering as symbolic of puffy and masculine was an emotional nightmare because I lacked the intellectual nuance to recognize the constructed nature of gender stereotyping and the righteous acumen to flip off any one who takes issue with my fatness. (“None of your beeswax, Asshole!”)

So, at seventeen propelled by sheer terror I lost ‘the weight’ for the third time. Yes, there were two previous cycles of starve and shrink. Ask any fat girl; weight loss is a reoccurring phenomenon.  On this particular occasion, I starved myself down to a size eight, (the coveted single digit size). In celebration of my thinner body, my mother took me to Barney’s department store on Madison Ave. and bought me a white leather skirt suit. I remember standing in the dressing room looking in the mirror and thinking there I am – the real me, the thin me.

In other words, I was completely disconnected with the reality of my body. In those days, it didn’t even occur to me that I REALLY was a fat girl. Instead, I pictured myself thin.  A model of feminine perfection –gaunt and gorgeous– imprisoned in fat flesh. (Please note: I may have walked down the graduation isle as the thin version of me, but I was back to being fat again in less than a year.)




This self-perception and complete disregard or denial of my fat body is not even a little unusual. Lesley Kinzel’s written about it – Virigie Tovar’s talked about it and I’m sure some of you reading this have felt it. For me, and for many others a fat body was not understood as a home, self or source of empowerment, rather it was perceived as an obstacle, which hindered fat girls from achieving acceptance. This means that fat women and girls have no genuine connection to the reality of their bodies. Instead, fat girls walk around believing if they could just commit themselves then they could reach their ‘real’- read thin – weight. And at the same time thin girls look in mirror and see what they consider to be terrifyingly fat bodies. Sigh. 

In 1989, eleven years after I was born, Shelly Bovey, author of The Forbidden Body:  wrote:
Racism, sexism and ageism have been recognized for the evils they are and brought into the daylight and named. They are part of the process whereby society rejects those who are different from the sociological role model, which has been defined as acceptable. Fattism is still largely a hidden prejudice and as such it is perhaps the most vicious of all… Fat is hated and despised and fat people are coerced to the outer limits of mainstream society. (1)


It’s worth noting that Bovey absolutely underestimates the brutal reality of racism, sexism and ageism. That said, Bovey’s notion that Fattism or fat prejudice is ‘hidden prejudice’ refers to the cultural acceptability of fat-hate. Literally, it is/was okay and culturally acceptable to make jokes at a fat person’s expense, to belittle fat people and teens on television, and to write books about fat bullies, monsters and demons, or rather to represent fat bodies as repugnant and repulsive, and in turn it is perfectly acceptable to dislike and demean fatness in the real world. 

After years of scholarly therapy (read: a life in pursuit of academia), I have come to understand that when I hated my own body I was participating in fattism fat-shame fat-hate and/or fat-prejudice and my distaste for my fat body was dictated by a cultural norm or social standard that excluded my body and other bodies like mine, which in many ways was directly related to how fat bodies were/are represented by multiple types of media. In other words, in this cultural climate neither I nor other fat girls had much of a chance at body acceptance. The world all around us was filled with images and stories that ridiculed us and reinforced fat as repulsive.

Representations of fat women and girls who are undeniably fat are particularly monstrous or demeaning. Spend some time considering who is fat in books, on television and in films – jokes and monsters – representations like Disney’s Ursula the Sea Witch, Harry Potter’s cousin, Dudley Dursley, and the horrifying display of fat brutality enacted against Gwyneth Paltrow’s fat suit character, Rosemary, in Shallow Hal. These representations are not pretty or kind, and believe you me if representations as degrading as this were hurled at many other social groups, there would be an uproar, letters of complaint, boycotts, protests, picket signs, you name it.

Fat-shame and fat-hatred are systemic. This is a brutal prejudice that is rooted and threaded throughout our cultural infrastructure. This prejudice is rife in our media, our healthcare system, our politics. It has to change. All bodies deserve just treatment, respect and loving care. 

I couldn’t stand by idly any more, so I got together with one of my closest friends, Viri Lieberman, who conveniently happens to be an outstanding filmmaker and we decided to make a film.  I think you’ll like it. Again you can check it out here.

If you do like it, you can support us in the following ways: 

1. If you can, donate to our Kickstarter. Every dollar counts. 

2. Share the Kickstarter on your social media feeds - facebook, twitter, personal blogs, etc. The more you post it the more likely we are to get exposure - and obviously, the more traffic we get, the more funds we can raise. 

3. Invite your friends to like our facebook page or tell your followers to like our facebook page. The facebook page is located at www.facebook.com/fattitudethemovie. On the right hand side of the page is a panel that says, "Invite Your Friends to like this page." You click the words  "see all" on the right hand side of the panel. A new box will open up and then you can click "invite" to invite anyone you feel comfortable inviting. Honestly, this is a tedious process, as you have to invite each friend individually - but we would be ever so thankful if you help us grow our community. 

4. Check out our web page and sign up for our mailing list: www.fattitudethemovie.com

5. If you know anyone you can contact or who you think we should contact about the kickstarter, please let us know. We can be reached via email:  fattitudethemovie@gmail.com

Thank you so much for any help you can offer!
Xo,

Lindsey Averill
(a.k.a. Feminist Cupcake)

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