This is the midweek edition of Culture Study — the newsletter from Anne Helen Petersen. Last month, I wrote about the millennial vernacular of fatphobia. Today, historian Angela Tate is here to talk about negotiating the images and ideals of the ‘90s and 2000s as a Black woman — and the overwhelming whiteness of eating disorder treatment.
The US healthcare system is a con game and a racket, but it is never so evil as when it gets a Black or brown person in its clutches. Tate's account is deeply chilling.
In general, buyer beware on eating disorder treatment programs. (I myself am in a 12 step fellowship for compulsive food behavior.) I have heard some good anecdata on The Emily Program out of the University of Minnesota, but I have no personal experience. And I also don't know if those who recommended it were all white.
hello Angela! thanks so much for sharing your story. I'd typed out some other thoughts, but deleted them as they were still partially formed. regardless, know you're not sharing into the void
Angela's story breaks my heart because I saw it happen in my own inpatient program - BIPOC were treated much worse than white patients, and white women were treated the best.
I was in an inpatient program at Johns Hopkins Hospital for major depression in 2017 and my program had crossover with their eating disorder program, which was on the same floor, which was set up like a dormitory more than a typical hospital. As a highly educated white woman, they asked my opinions on my treatment regiment while others were taken off of medications willy-nilly (even ones that had nothing to do with mental health) and had no control over the matter. They treated one woman of color in my program really poorly and even put her in solitary confinement for a day for being "resistant". Her disagreement with them and rightful outburst over her poor treatment wasn't taken seriously and was seen as "proof" that she was crazy.
The eating disorder side was very narrowly set up to treat ultra-thin size 00 white anorexic women - one of the people I befriended who had a dual-diagnosis had trouble being recognized as having an eating disorder at all because she technically had a "healthy" BMI. If they struggled to treat size 8 anorexic white women there was no way they were going to be able to handle women of color with more complex cases, if they admitted them at all (which in my time there, no POC was in the dual program...)
Thank you for sharing your perspective that is sorely lacking. I've started watching Girlfriends for the first time during the pandemic and the thinness of all 4 leads has disturbed me at times. If it can make me feel bad now, how would it have made me feel if I was a teenager.