OK, I’m a bit of a rabble rouser. I try not to be really shouty about it, and I have a strong belief in principled and not personalized activism, but I am always going to push for real change, and it makes me an irritating friend to have, at times.
I have long said that the greatest roadblock to change around eating disorder practice and policy is us. It’s the eating disorder community that has the power to bring, or block, progress. See now why I’m not all that popular at parties?
The agreement not to disagree is a widespread problem, and has to be called out. We’ve accepted a conflict-avoidant, myopic, powerless view of our field. Those well-meaning and authentically held beliefs — we all have them — that are considered so personal they can not be discussed or questioned.
Last year in Chicago, in one of my lifetime personal peak moments, a group of us managed to host an open discussion of differences at an ICED Difficult Dialogues Session. In four rounds of the World Cafe method, we managed to get a diverse room full of ED clinicians, researchers, and advocates to identify points of consensus. It was glorious. It was historic, I believe. It was “proof of concept” that we can do that sort of thing, together, in 2019. It was not easy. There were EMOTIONS. There were DISAGREEMENT. People were OFFENDED and CHALLENGED. And: we all survived.
This year the panel and I are going further. Instead of points of consensus we are going to identify where we DISagree. Points that really keep us stuck. We are going to look around us at a room full of others who care deeply about eating disorders and we are going to face differences between us.
That’s big, my friends. I find that too often I am the first person to say certain things to another ED colleague, things that are common in my circles. I hear daily of ideas that seem entirely accepted and yet completely unmoored from other ED practice. That should not be: we should at least be fluent in the arguments and differences in our own field. We should not be afraid of that: we must embrace it. If not us, who?
Who does it serve to not face these differences civilly and fully? I’ll tell you who it doesn’t serve: those with eating disorders. They must be our chief concern. Not our pet causes, careers, or reputations.
We’ve proved we can agree without fisticuffs or fainting. Let’s prove we can disagree. Then, let’s get on with resolving those differences so we can work together as a field to help those who need us.
March 16, 2019. 11:15am. New York Ballroom. AED’s ICED.
I need you in that room with us.