Fat Shaming Documentary Spurs Death Threats

When internet trolls told Lindsey Averill to get off the couch and stop eating doughnuts, she laughed it off.

The "Fattitude" filmmaker doesn't eat doughnuts because she's allergic to gluten, and she exercises with a trainer three times a week.

"I can laugh at those people because [they] believe the stereotype that fat is a simple concept," Averill, 35, said. "It's foolish. I'm going to help educate you by making this film."

Then the trolls started calling her home with death and rape threats. They sent pizzas to her house to prove they knew where she lived. They called her husband at work and found her parents' numbers, too. They harassed the people featured in the film and the investors who backed it on Kickstarter.

She knew from other "body-positive" filmmakers and bloggers to expect trolls when she launched her 45-day Kickstarter fundraiser on April 10, but she never thought she would be a target for death threats.

"I didn't expect it to get this ugly," she said.

Her goal was to show that the relationship between eating and fat isn't as linear as people think, but she also wanted to highlight how common fat discrimination really is.

She just didn't know her own experience with cyber-bullying would be part of the lesson.

Lindsey Averill's kickstarter to fund a film about the realities of fat shaming spurred an online troll attack that led to death threats. (Courtesy Lindsey Averill)

The trolls first started taking her video and putting it on YouTube under the title "Cakes: The New Comedy Hit," Averill wrote in a blog post detailing the attack for XOJane.com. Then, they spliced it with racist, anti-Semitic and violent images.

Averill filed a complaint for copyright infringement, and a troll tweeted at her to retract it "or else." That's when the threats started coming in.

The XOJane.com blog drew comments from trolls, but even more comments from her supporters, Averill said. It didn't make her feel safer, but at least people thought her project was important. She said her own harassment experience won't be part of the "Fattitude" movie, but it will likely be a mini-documentary on the DVD.

"I really do feel like we do live in a culture that's brutally cruel to fat people of all ages - children and adults alike," she said. "If you're like me and you're living in a fat body, no one should be mean to you."