More Thoughts on Frances Chan

Since we posted about Frances Chan and her fight with Yale to convince them that she does not have an eating disorder, I’ve seen more and more insensitive commentaries and ridiculous headlines about her case. 

Ridiculous headlines like this one over at the New Haven Register:


I’ve been mainly disappointed that some people, including those in the Asian community, have called this story - the story of Frances having to “stuff her face with cheetos and ice-cream to pacify school officials” - an “Asian problem.”

Let me be clear. This is NOT an Asian problem, and the fact that we think it’s an Asian problem simply perpetuates the stereotype that Asians are supposed to be petit, slim, and that we can eat whatever we want and not gain weight. 

This is simply not true and we are only doing our community a disservice by laughing this story off as if it’s some joke. 

Grace Hwang Lynch shares her thought about this issue on Blogher and asks the question of whether or not being “underweight” means having an eating disorder because she herself was there once as a college student. 

Like Frances Chan, I was self-conscious about the attention I received for being so thin. I ate three square meals a day, including ice cream after every dinner at the dining hall. But unlike Chan, I wasn’t advised to do so by medical staff and there was no threat of being suspended from the university.

While I’m impressed by Yale’s vigilance about the potential for eating disorders, I have so many questions about the way the university handled the case. According to a 2010 article in the Yale Herald, an incoming student must submit medical information, from which her body mass index (BMI) is calculated. The newspaper reports that a BMI below 18 is cause for concern by university officials.

Our bodies change, especially during periods of high stress and especially during our college years when we’re transitioning into adulthood. This is certainly a journey that I experienced. However, let’s call this story for what it really is: “Nobody can tell you if you have an eating disorder except for yourself. So much of it is not about BMI or weight but the obsession.”

The obsession, of having the "correct” body, whatever that is. 

- Lisa