Rachel Dolezal and Rachel Farrokh.
Two Rachels. Two very different stories plastered in the media.
Yet, when side by side the similarities are striking. Both fighting for missions they deem to be worthy of attention and both pointing shaky arrows at the target. Most likely you have heard about Rachel Dolezal, as she has been interviewed on multiple media outlets these past few days.
In the “Today” interview one Tuesday and one that followed on a sister network, MSNBC, Ms. Dolezal, remarkably composed despite harsh criticism aimed at her, stuck to her insistence that racial heredity does not equal identity, and she would not answer questions about whether she had changed her self-identification to merely gain advantage.” – NYTimes
Rachel Farrokh also been spotlighted in the news, mostly in California’s media. But she is a well-known story in the world of eating disorders.
Here is the latest update on the Rachel Farrokh story.
I wrote about it here.
And if you want to read in in-depth look into the holes in Rachel Farrokh’s story, click here.
What shines so brightly to me are the following 8 similarities that I see as important to remember when reading or watching these two women fight their battles.
Because we look with shock and awe, we make assumptions and judgements…but aren’t we all more similar to these women than different?
1. Middle. With both of these women, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. There are numerous holes in each story. Why does Rachel Dolezal call herself black when her parents are clearly white? Why is Rachel Farrokh asking and receiving money yet, still has not entered a treatment facility? Both women are lying by omission in their own ways and the truth about each of their stories lies somewhere in the middle. While the extent that their stories are playing out in national news is a bit histrionic, in my opinion, none of us can deny that we have created our own truths. Our own realities sometimes by believing what we want to believe.
2. Identity. Dolezal has found her identity in transforming herself into a black woman, by believing this identity of herself as not white and stepping into that identity. It is what helps her feel safe. Farrokh has done this too, this molding and shaping to become what she believes is the ultimate safety, and for her it is being thin. Both women have gone to extremes to live inside what they deem as safe places. Rachel Farrokh’s illness might eventually kill her, both women are searching for their identities trying to figure out where they fit in this world and we all do that in some way don’t we?
3. Trauma. There is no doubt in my mind that both of these women ended up in these places because of trauma, and they have constructed their realities as a way to cope, to survive, and to exist. We may not agree with how they are going about it, but in their own minds it is working for them. Both women are confabulating their lives. If you don’t know what this means, below is a part of Wikipedia’s definition.
Confabulation (verb: confabulate) is a memory disturbance, defined as the production of fabricated, distorted or misinterpreted memories about oneself or the world, without the conscious intention to deceive.Confabulation is distinguished from lying as there is no intent to deceive and the person is unaware the information is false. Although individuals can present blatantly false information, confabulation can also seem to be coherent, internally consistent, and relatively normal. Individuals who confabulate present incorrect memories ranging from “subtle alterations to bizarre fabrications”, and are generally very confident about their recollections, despite contradictory evidence.”
4. Veils. Both women are using their illnesses as platforms for activism. Rachel Dolezal works as an advocate and teacher for the African American Community and Rachel Farrokh wants to help women who are struggling with eating disorders. Unfortunately, Dolezal is only producing much more anger and rage by those who don’t understand and Rachel Farrokh is triggering thousands of people struggling with eating disorders to say, “Well I am not as sick as her, so I must not be a problem.” Or, a twisted goal is now set as trying to get as thin as her. I know it doesn’t make sense to the average person, but I have recently heard patients say these things and have read it on thinspiration sites. And the reality is, many suffer silently as insurance companies don’t deem them ill enough. Stories like Farrokh’s make many shy away from getting help. (Here is a recent article on this issue.)
5. Mental Illness. Both women clearly have some form of mental illness and this is the part that makes me so sad. We are like visitors of a zoo looking in on their cages. Both have invited the media in and are choosing to do so, but at some point both women need help.
6. Therapist. Rachel Farrokh is allegedly receiving help, but I wonder about Rachel Dolezal and hope that she is getting help.
7. Mirror. Both women look in the mirror and see something completely different than we see. Rachel Dolezal looks and sees a black woman and Rachel Farrokh sees a fat woman. We don’t see what they see. We can’t understand it, but that is why it is so complex and why both women really need help.
8. Grace. While the media, especially social media, are coming at these women with hateful and harmful remarks, I encourage a kinder response to view these women through the eyes of grace and compassion. To understand that they are more similar than they are different from you and I.
They are trying to find themselves, trying to find peace from trauma, and trying to find their own lives worth living.
Aren’t we all doing that in some shape or form?
Let’s offer them both our grace and prayers.