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The Beauty of Big: Fattitude aims to spread body positivity in Boise


The body-positive documentary Fattitude doesn't pull any punches. The mission page of the film's website begins: "Did you know that fat people are paid $1.25 less an hour than their thin counterparts? Or that a fat person who excels can still legally lose a job just because s/he's fat? How about the reality that one in three doctors associate fat bodies with hostility, dishonesty and poor hygiene? Fat people are subject to discrimination everywhere they look."

For local body positivity activist Amy Pence-Brown, creator of the radically feminist support group the Boise Rad Fat Collective, these are must-hear messages. That's is why she's been monitoring the production of Fattitude for years, waiting for its release so she could bring it to Boise. On Wednesday, May 30, at 7 p.m., the film will make its Idaho debut for a one-night screening at The Flicks.

Directed by Lindsey Averill and Viridiana Lieberman (I Am Evidence, The Sentence), and featuring interviews with Guardian and GQ writer Lindy West, National Eating Disorders Association Program Director Claire Mysko, supermodel Tess Holliday and a host of other experts and activists in fields ranging from fashion to nutrition, Fattitude attempts to illuminate the challenges and triumphs of being "fat"—a term both its creators and Pence-Brown embrace—in a world where thin is the cultural ideal. Pence-Brown said it was this multitude of perspectives she found most powerful about the film, which she previewed on the Oregon State University campus earlier this month. She was there to speak to students in the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Department; the Psychology Department; and a course called Fat Studies.

"The variety of voices that they brought together, from academics to activists to artists—the artwork in [Fattitude] is really great—to writers and models, and actresses and clothing designers...I mean, there's a wide range of people with different experiences and expertise that tell these stories and help paint this fuller picture of what life is like right now for fat people in this country," said Pence-Brown. "I think [the documentary] is super inspirational about where we're headed, to a really great, more positive and inclusive life."

The film has been touring the country since its release in 2017. Through a company called Tugg, Pence-Brown was able to bring it to Idaho by partnering with The Flicks and pre-selling a portion of tickets. As of May 15, 95 of the seats in the roughly 150-seat theater had already been claimed, securing the documentary well in advance of its presale deadline. Pence-Brown said community sponsors, including business owners who bought a dozen or more tickets to pass out to customers and employees, helped make it happen along with local members of the BRFC, which has 2,000 devotees worldwide, roughly half from Idaho. In 2016, the BRFC filled screenings of the body-positive Australian documentary Embrace at two Edwards theaters in the Treasure Valley, so Pence-Brown was confident she'd be able to pack the largest theater at The Flicks.

  • Valerie Doty

"I already know, because I know some of the people [who have bought tickets] either through [BRFC] or in real life, that there is a really diverse demographic coming. People of all genders, people of all abilities, all sizes—and that's the same for admission to [BRFC], it's not limited to any one gender, and there's no weight requirement," she said.

As she's already seen the 90-minute film, what Pence-Brown is looking forward to most about the screening is the introduction to the body positivity movement she'll give before it starts—going all the way back to the beginnings of fat acceptance in the 1960s as part of the Civil Rights movement—and the Q&A she'll host at the end. She expects some difficult questions, as community knowledge about body image and health issues varies widely.

"I often say I'm perpetually teaching one-on-one," she said. "There's a wide range of people, and it's really important to me as an activist and an educator to meet people where they're at ... The hardest part for people of fat acceptance and body positivity is the anti-diet culture, [anti-]intentional weight loss concept. That's a hard thing for people to let go of when you've been taught and it's been ingrained in your head your whole life. These things that you believed about bodies, to hear that there's actually new science and ideas and research around shame and other things that maybe show that they're not as true as you always thought—that's a hard thing to let go of, and people tend to get angry or upset."

Pence-Brown has made education on body positivity her full-time job. She speaks at universities and grade schools across the northwest, and also hosts local BRFC activities like Rad Camp, a "body-positive boot camp for feminists," "chunky dunk" pool parties, plus-sized clothing swaps and more. Despite the challenges, she said, the movement is making strides.

"I think this is a really exciting time, because it is on the brink of being big," she said with a grin. "Pun intended."

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