Barbie and Ken joined forces with USM students last week to raise awareness about body image and eating disorders. The plastic couple appeared in the “flesh” at the Woodbury Campus Center in Portland and flaunted the truth about their to-die-for looks.
Standing over five feet tall, USM’s Barbie and Ken represent what the dolls would look like if their miniature measurements were applied to a real human being. The dummies were created in honor of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week by USM eating disorders awareness group REACT, which stands for Recovery in Action.
“We’re talking about something that people don’t want to talk about,” said Allison Stinneford, a junior communications major who helped construct the paper mache couple standing in the Woodbury Campus Center.
The dolls stand near the back wall of the cafeteria. The wall behind them provides information on REACT, body image, eating disorders, and where to get help if you are suffering.
“Barbie and Ken are a way to grab attention on campus,” said Caroline Breton, a senior exercise and physiology major and co-founder of REACT. “We want students to realize that what the media puts in our face is not real.
National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is Feb. 21 to 27, but REACT chose to celebrate recovery a week late this year because of February break falling during the same time. Breton said she wanted USM students to have the opportunity to raise awareness on university grounds.
REACT was founded in October 2008 by Breton and another USM student, Joanna Love, who is no longer involved with the group
Breton transferred to USM from Quinnipiac University where her struggle with anorexia had begun to threaten her life. By the time she got to USM she was beginning her recovery, however she said she saw that campus life was lacking in eating disorders awareness.
Breton met Love while they were taking an anatomy and physiology lab together. The two lamented about how hard it was to get involved on the mostly commuter populated campus. Breton said that Love told about her about plans to start an eating disorders awareness group.
In the fall of 2008, the two contacted the USM Board of Student Organizations and then Love met with the Student Senate Parliamentarian. The parliamentarian must be told what the purpose and goals of a new group are and presented with a group constitution before a proposal can be submitted to the student senate. At that time, Breton and Love’s awareness group was not like other student groups on campus because they didn’t have formal officers, which was a point of concern for the senate.
Breton said that the varying stages of recovery made it impossible to elect steadfast leaders for the group. “We couldn’t have a president or a vice president who might not be in solid recovery,” said Breton, who is now three years into her recovery.
Breton and Love also approached University Health and Counseling Services for guidance in forming their organization. “[REACT officers] periodically will come and meet with our staff and also we have provided for their support group a counseling intern,” said Janice Mallon, director of training for university counseling services.
Mallon supervises and assigns the counseling interns who facilitate the REACT support group that holds meetings on Thursday evenings in Payson Smith Hall in Portland. “It’s good for the group to have a professional facilitator,” said Mallon, who often refers students struggling with eating disorders to the supportive community of REACT.
“You don’t have to have an eating disorder to be a part of this group. We’re a group that wants to raise awareness,” Stinneford said. Stinneford recently received her Student Organization Officer Training certification, which will allow her to take over as president of REACT after Breton graduates in May.
Stinneford said she has never had an eating disorder, but she has known people who have struggled with them. Breton describes Stinneford as being passionate about raising awareness and she has no doubt about Stinneford’s capability to lead REACT next year.