August 24, 2012

why can't we all just get along?

Here is an excellent illustration of why we need as a field to come together on what an eating disorder is, and what it is not. The episode below, part of a series I otherwise adore, treats "eating disorder" as a term we can all just interpret. You can take a range of intelligent, insightful people and ask them their opinion about eating disorders - in this case it is African-Americans - and they all have things to say just as they do about tipping and camping. Everyone, it seems, has an opinion and get to define the term.

Although the demographic is different than the usual, the opinions here are standard issue: wanting to be thin, identity, culture, desire for control, emotional solace. A set of behaviors, choices. There's a range of views here but not one describes eating disorders as a mental illness or biological in nature -- or with a significant genetic predisposition --or treatable, which I would argue are the most important facts.

Just the topic tells us so much. If the question was "do Black folk have diabetes?" there'd be a different frame here because we'd be talking about a disease that everyone recognizes for what it is. Nobody would be riffing on autoimmune theories and endocrinology - they'd talk about their sister who had it and their uncle who lost his toe from it. If the topic was cancer no one would even be asking the question: it wouldn't be seen as cultural.

We need clear terms and a clear view of what an eating disorder is so people will stop thinking of eating disorders as something everyone is an expert on, and start thinking of them as something people -- including black people -- not only have but recover from.


Oh, and before anyone says it, I will. Black folk aren't biologically or genetically different than white folk. Look it up. Black and white Americans are more likely to be related to their opposite race next-door neighbors than they are same race folks on the opposite coast. Race is a social construct, not a biological family. If that sounds odd to you think of hair or eye color. Think about it: are green-eyed people from different families more likely to be related to one another? 

5 comments:

  1. To me it is not one disorder but a group of disorders, each with independent causes.

    We the people also have a thinking issue, what are we all about, what we do.

    Disordered eating vs eating disordered. Two different things.

    What is the cultural standard for body size?

    Secondly, "people can believe what ever they like, even if it is wrong."

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  2. Extraordinary television. Want to meet the lovely ballet dancer. Apart from that it was the usual, usual "eating disorders" programme with the added twist of colour.

    WHAT HAS THE COLOUR OF YOUR SKIN GO TO DO WITH GETTING AN EATING DISORDER?

    I had never thought of eating disorders in terms of "race" before. I tend to not overthink the race thing and the only thing I know is that sickle cell tends to be more prevalent amongst communities whose ancestors originated from a malaria area. You are not immune, just because you are "white" (whatever that is!).

    Anyways, I found this depressing and racist in itself. I KNOW that creed, color, class and country makes no difference for eating disorders. The minute I heard about rich white girls and abuse, I just wanted to switch off - same old, same old but with even more prejudice.

    Sigh.

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  3. This is the main reason I'm so afraid to tell my mom that's my eating is so disordered/: I am African americn and I go to a Caucasian school. I'm afraid she going to think that because I'm black I'm immune to having an eating disorder and that I'm just doing it to fit in.

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  4. I'm a African American that lives in a Caucasian neighborhood and goes to a Caucasian school. I'm scared to talk to my mom about my disordered eating because I'm scared she'll think I'm just being dramatic or worse that because I'm black I'm immune. Im scared she won't accept it.

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  5. Kay, parents often do misunderstand, but that's not a reason to delay. It may take some education. PLEASE send your mom to me and I'll help explain. An eating disorder is not something to keep to oneself or a situation where you should have to manage the people around you. It is a treatable condition, like diabetes or a broken leg, that requires family support.

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