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Conference appreciated, jokes aren’t

Letter to the Editor | Thursday, February 8, 2007

The Notre Dame Student Senate’s “Eating Disorders and the Campus Culture” conference began Thursday. This conference marks a monumental achievement for women and men, in particular college students, who suffer, have suffered, or know someone suffering of an eating disorder. It is a significant event for someone who feels the constant pressure to lose a few pounds, eat less, or work out more. In fact, it probably has affected, even in a small way, anyone who has found him or herself looking in the mirror that one extra time and feeling concerned before they go out on a Friday night.

As a college woman, I can honestly say that the pressure to think about my weight and try to perfect my body is omnipresent in my life. As a member of a dorm community, I can say that I have seen the stress and worry on my friends’ faces as they decide what to eat in the dining hall. As a friend, I can say that I have watched someone I love starve herself in an attempt to find self-confidence and self-assurance. As a sister, I can say that I have watched someone overeat in an attempt to feel loved and accepted. I am just one person, one of many at this University, and I have been affected by eating disorders in almost every sphere of my life: my dorm community, my closest friends, my family, and even in myself. I do not feel that I am alone in this predicament. It is for these reasons that I am so appreciative of the conference this weekend, and it is for these reasons that I fully support our current Student Senate.

Unfortunately, it is for these same reasons that I was shocked by Thursday’s Kaleidoscope McDaniels comic strip. In case anyone missed this comic, allow me to recap it. The comic depicted two exaggeratedly overweight men discussing the upcoming eating disorder conference. The first man initially mistakes the conference for an eating disorder contest. The second then states that “I think women need to be aware … you know … of their bodies … and stuff … on their bodies”. Then the first man comments that he hopes the conference will not impact the availability of fro-yo on campus. I have several reactions to this comic.

My immediate reaction to the column was one of extreme concern. An eating disorder is classified as a disease. It worries me to think that anyone would demean or mock something as serious as a conference related to disease prevention. What precedent does this comic set? Will we soon have to endure comics mocking the runs to raise money for breast cancer or conferences supporting autism research?

Secondly, I question the actual content of the comic. Eating disorders are clearly a female-dominated issue, however the number of men suffering from eating disorders is growing. It puzzles me then that a male student would write a column featuring male characters in response to this conference. The use of only male characters in a comic such as this one gives the impression that the conference is strictly for women, and that men are merely spectators in the fight against this growing problem. This may cause male students who suffer from eating disorders to feel as though they are out of place, or that the conference is not intended for them.

My final reaction, and the reason for this letter, is one of concern for the conference itself. Dealing with an issue as sensitive and private as an eating disorder is a difficult task. By nature, sufferers of eating disorders may feel apprehensive about attending a conference that may expose their conditions. So a comic such as this one, that mocks the conference, discourages attendance – threatening the entire cause. This comic has the potential to discourage many people, or even just one, from attending this conference. That person may have been the one person who really needed this conference.

And so I conclude with this thought: students of Notre Dame, do not let the ignorance of some hinder you from seeking the education or assistance that you need or desire.

Eleanor Bradley


Breen-Phillips Hall

Feb. 8