Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Understanding Eating Disorders: Moving Beyond the Basic


It's been a minute, you know the deal.

I read this great article at about eating disorders (it's nat'l eating disorder month) and how we should address them. The author, Autumn Whitefield-Madrano, explains that by viewing negative body image as a factor instead of a symptom of EDs we ignore the fact that an ED is, in fact, a mental illness. If we accept that poor body image is a driving force for developing an ED then we assume that if we diversify dominant cultural images of bodies then we end EDs. Eh, not so simple....

If we realize that EDs are a mental illness and not because you played with Barbie for a little too long then we have to look at a broader range of causes i.e. DEPRESSION, stress and your cultural as well as home environments. These are the three main factors that contribute to developing an eating disorders. Don't get me wrong, negative body image is most definitely in the picture-- but it has received too much of the focus.

For all us Colored Folk:

Some of you might be thinking, "phst. that's a white girl thing...'
Phst. No it's not. I know plenty of women of color who have eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia nervosa. And that deserves more acknowledgment! I also know plenty of women who OVEREAT in an attempt to self-medicate their depression and quell their loneliness and isolation. I would count binge eating and overeating as eating disorders...

What do all of you think? Do you think that women of color suffer from 'eating problems' as much as our white sisters?

Chime in Folks!

Theater Review: Katori Hall’s Hurt Village

 Often discussed in a sociological context, poverty is a distant phenomenon for many of us.  It is what we critique in our college classes, lament among friends, and romanticize in rap lyrics. But at times, too many of us choose to dismiss it.

In her current off-Broadway play, Hurt Village, accomplished playwright Katori Hall compels our attention with characters whose struggles are profound, yet common. Through their stories, the alienating nature of poor people’s lives is eliminated, at least temporarily. With dynamic performances from the actors, we cannot help but feel for people who live with unimaginable pain, even if we do not particularly identify with their issues. The combination of great storytelling and acting makes for a good theater experience, even when our connection to the characters is made by empathizing with their misery, their hurt.

Set in Hall’s native Memphis, TN, the play explores the story of troubled family and friends, and their quest for survival revolves around real life housing projects aptly called Hurt Village. The protagonist, 13-year-old Cookie (Joaquina Kalukango), may be too young to create drama of her own. She is a curious student who is bussed to an all-white, presumably adequate school but cannot seem to escape the chaos of her home life: Crank, her abusive mother (Marsha Stephanie Blake), Buggy, an erratic father who has been out of her life until recently (Corey Hawkins), and a foul mouth, cantankerous grandmother called Big Mama (Tonya Pinkins). There are few characters to root for in this play, given their lack of drive and overall negativity. But I found myself wishing the best for Cookie, hoping she might avoid the allure of addiction, criminal activity, and the quicksand of despair that traps her family.

In an attempt to set Hurt Village apart from the typical story about poor black people, Hall includes criticisms of political issues, including welfare reform, affordable housing, and veterans’ struggles. Her criticisms are well taken but are not enough to make the play distinct in nature, especially with characters who are close to being caricatures.  The story may not be a creative one, but it is poignant and comical, though sometimes outlandish. However, it’s not every day our emotions channel those of others who live in a world away from us.
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