February 8, 2001

Interactive Performance Focuses on Body Image

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With moving stories, artistic depictions of emaciated bodies, and a sometimes tremulous voice, Jessica Weiner recounted the horrors of eating disorders and body-loathing to a filled Uris Auditorium last night.

Weiner’s interactive performance, called “Mirror, Mirror,” encouraged students to examine not only their feelings about their bodies, but also the way they speak about their bodies.

“We speak a language of fat,” said Weiner. “It’s so much easier to talk about the size and shape of your thighs than to talk about the problems in your life.”

Gannett Clinical Volunteers, Panhellenic Health Advisory Team (PHAT), Cornell Fitness Centers, Community Development, and the Cornell Women’s Resource Center sponsored “Mirror, Mirror” as a part of Health Awareness Week. Each sponsor emphasized the prevalence of negative body image and the need to change that image.

“Body issues are everywhere,” said Candace Rypisi, director of the Women’s Resource Center, “but they’re compounded on college campuses.”

Katherine Paz ’02, coordinator of PHAT, said she hoped that “Mirror, Mirror” would reach students who are numb to statistics about eating disorders.

“[Weiner is] not your everyday clinician [or] scientist. She’s a performer,” Paz said.

Weiner interspersed general lecturing and questions to the audience with dramatic accounts of people who have suffered from eating disorders. Her emotional stories included accounts of bulimia, anorexia, exercise bulimia, and body mutilation.

Even though much of the lecture focused on women — and women comprised the vast majority of the audience — Weiner noted that men also suffer from distorted images.

“Men become obsessed with being bigger, stronger [and] better,” Weiner said.

Weiner also discussed how to deal with a friend who is suffering from an eating disorder.

“We spend an awful lot of time telling friends that they’re not fat,” Weiner said. “We slap big band-aids on each other. Instead of answering their question, ask them how they feel.”

“We blame society, but we are card-carrying members of society. You have to choose to change your life. Recovery is a choice and a journey,” she said.

However, the journey is not one to go through alone, Gannett emphasized. Before the performance, students could pick up a variety of brochures on nutrition, alcohol, and eating disorders. Afterwards, students could speak to a nutritionist and a counselor from Cornell Psychological Services at Gannett.

Most students praised the performance, but some wondered if its message alone, without sufficient reinforcement, would make a difference.

“Not much can be achieved by speaking for an hour to such a large audience,” said Sam Ford ’04.

Nevertheless, most students agreed with Wendy Guyker ’02, who said she thought the performance was “excellent” and “powerful.”

“It hits home with a lot of people,” said Allison Levine ’04.

Archived article by Elisa Jillson