This Is Us

My radical vision for the future does not include the violence that occurs within a hospital’s walls — or the hospital at all

Medical equipment on the background of group of health workers in the ICU.
Medical equipment on the background of group of health workers in the ICU.
Photo: sudok1/Getty Images

On a night in my early teens, I went to the Pediatric Emergency Department at Montefiore’s Children’s Hospital for intense cramps. I was expecting my period in a few days but had never felt that way before — like a heat lamp was burning into the meat of my pelvis.

My mother and I spent the better part of nine hours in a tiny room with speckled vinyl floors and too-bright fluorescent lights. At one point, I was sent to another room nearby that was a little larger and had no extra chairs. My mother was told to stand outside the room and wait because the doctor would be asking me about matters that required privacy. …

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Source: Unsplash

A few months ago, in the face of undismissable protests against state-sponsored Black genocide, (white) academia remembered that racism is a thing. Following the lead of its students, my own university had a number of responses about its awakening to anti-Blackness, police brutality, and the nature of structural racism. One of the School of Public Health’s responses was to hold a town hall to discuss the implementation of antiracism principles into the School’s operation.

I did not go to this town hall for a variety of reasons. I was tired. I was exhausted. I was worn out. I was also just about done with fighting for a seat at a table that wasn’t even that great to begin with. The conversation was stale and the price of admission was too high and, really, the table was never that great. …

Restrictive eating and forced weight loss were tools of control in the NXIVM’s sex cult ‘DOS’. I can’t say I’m surprised.

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Cover art to The Vow, a documentary series from HBO.

Please note that this article mentions cult activities, slavery terminology, extreme dieting, abuse, calorie counting, bingeing, self harm, and coercive sexual situations as are discussed in HBO’s ‘The Vow’.

HBO’s new documentary series ‘The Vow’ provides a carefully curated peephole into NXIVM, a corporate pyramid scheme that sold self-help workshops and was home to a sex cult intended to fulfill the desires and ambitions of its founder, Keith Raniere.

(If you’re planning on watching ‘The Vow’, this essay has spoilers. …

These white female dietitians have helped steal and monetize the body positive movement. And I’m sick of it.

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A censored image of an instagram post from a well-known “anti-diet dietitian’s” page. (Cred: Me)

In the midst of working on this essay, a fellow member of a Health At Every Size Facebook group posted about an encounter with a popular dietitian on Instagram. This dietitian has branded herself as an anti-diet dietitian and body positivity advocate. She has over 50k followers. She sells courses on how to kick one’s dieting habit that cost $250.

This group member politely commented on this dietitian’s post to explain that their frequent posting of “before and afters”, complaints about being unable to celebrate her own weight loss, and pictures with “stomach rolls” (like in the image above) contributes to the falsehood of fat bodies being “before” bodies and exacerbates the hypervisibility of privileged, straight-sized people in the body liberation movement. …

Let’s be careful about how we define ‘progress’

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Eat for your health and the next generation. Illustration courtesy of the author

This is a story of another time, of a plausible future 30 years from now, give or take, in which the human experience of life and health (and perhaps even of who we are) will unfold unlike anything known before. The citizens of this future will learn early in life — through some combination of next-next-next-generation genetic testing and intelligence gleaned from their smart accessories — whether they are heading toward disease: depression, dementia, diabetes, what have you. More important, they will be offered an exit strategy.

This is the opening of a January 2020 article in UCSF Magazine. It discusses the potentials of several in-progress genomic research initiatives intended to further various disease treatments and preventative measures. It also mentions different ethical viewpoints on the potential dangers of therapies, like germline engineering, capable of manufacturing intergenerational genetic changes. Imagine designer babies and designer grandbabies and designer great-grandbabies — whole designer family tree branches, if you will. …

The threat COVID posed to my body was nothing in comparison to what it had already experienced.

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Finding sanctuary among the noise. (Created by the wonderful South Carolina-based artist Demetria. @thingsbydemetria on instagram)

A few weeks ago, I received a time-sensitive email from the administrative folks at my university. They kindly asked for my best guess with respect to whether I’d need a cubicle space for the fall. As a second year doctoral student, I would have moved up from the designated office space for first-years on the second floor of the School of Public Health to the student space nestled within my department on the fourth floor.

Without an extra second of pause, I responded: “I will not be on campus in the fall.”

That would have been unthinkable a year ago when I was preparing to start my doctoral program. Even during a pandemic, I would have guessed that I’d be part of a non-negligible number of students at Brown preparing for a partially-in-person semester. After all, I’d spent hours during application season in the depths of daydreams. Sometimes I was getting my degree, but most times I was just walking through the department offices to my own desk space with my own desk things and my own desk chair. Nothing, I would have thought, could stop me from reaping the full benefits of years of hard work, trauma, and leaving my family behind in our tiny public housing apartment in the Bronx. …

It’s past time the academy reckons with its use of marginalized people for its own gain.

The current spotlight on structural racism’s impact on Black lives has resulted in the allocation of resources intended to support expertise in this area. Many universities have started initiatives to finance the current wave of racism-focused research, like University of South Florida’s $500,000 fund or Columbia’s similar seed-grant program. Yale’s School of Public Health recently advertised an opening for a tenure-track faculty position in Racism and Health. Stanford Law School has a new Center for Racial Justice and is planning to hire 10 new faculty as part of a “Impacts of Race in America” cluster hire. The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine also seem to be preparing for a $1.5 …


Marquisele Mercedes

Mikey is fine. PhDing in calamari city. Bronx girl writing about fat politics + the health industrial complex. Science is never objective. Twitter: @marquisele

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