Israel Bans Underweight Models — So Who’s Hiring Them? [Slate / XXfactor]

Slate XXfactor Israel Bans Underweight Models by Virginia Sole-Smith

I’m back on Slate’s XXfactor blog, with a piece about what these bans on underweight models might do to the models themselves. Of course the hope is: Allow them to keep working, now at a healthy weight. But that assumes the fashion industry will all fall neatly in line and start championing the health of their young workforce — which is pretty much the opposite of what’s happened so far anytime anyone has attempted industry reform thus far. (See Marc Jacobs refusing to check for underage models last month for the case in point.)

Don’t get me wrong: I’m mostly happy about Israel’s new law, because it means heavily Photoshopped media images will have to carry disclaimers and advertisements won’t be allowed to glamorize unhealthy levels of thinness (and with that, one extremely narrow definition of beauty). I just don’t think it’s the ideal or most comprehensive solution because we’re talking about a systemic issue fueled by layers of profit margins, bottom lines and heavily entrenched beauty ideals. It would be nice if the “banning skinny models” clause of the legislation was accompanied by some effort to afford those young women the kind of workers’ rights and protections they so desperately need — as the Model Alliance is fighting to do with their bill of rights and other efforts.

Here’s how their founder and director Sara Ziff explains it:  

We cannot promote healthy images without taking steps to promote healthy bodies and minds, and that starts with giving the faces of this business a unified voice. By giving models a platform to organize to improve their industry, the Model Alliance aims to enhance the vitality and moral standing of the fashion business as a whole. Correcting these abuses starts with seeing models through a different lens: not as dehumanized images, but as workers who deserve the same rights and protections as anyone else.

Yep. That’s pretty much it.

Thoughts? How would you like to see the modeling industry regulated — or not? 

Filed under Beauty Labor, Beauty Standards, Fashion, Glossed Over, Government Watch, Modeling, Press

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  1. Posted March 22, 2012 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    I don’t agree with this approach. BMI is not at all a measure of health, and many models literally cannot gain weight. It has been proven some people can’t gain weight, even by consuming thousands of calories a day. I include myself as one of them.

    • Posted March 22, 2012 at 9:06 am | Permalink

      Good point. I was also troubled by their decision to use BMI as the “health barometer” since it’s such a wildly inaccurate way to assess health (though I understand why they did it — they want one simple standard that can be applied across the industry… unfortunately health is far more complicated and individual than that!). I am concerned, of course, that there are plenty of models who could gain weight but are being told they shouldn’t and putting their health at risk as a result — but we need a better way of pinpointing those cases. And putting the blame/responsibility for change on the agencies and advertisers who glorify that ideal and put that kind of pressure on the girls, rather than adding to the pressure on the girls themselves.

  2. Kate
    Posted March 24, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    I understand that we might be hurting young models, but it’s almost impossible to change a mindset without doing something like this.

    • Posted March 26, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

      I agree — there are a lot of logistics to be worked out and it’s probably going to be a two steps forward/two steps back kind of thing… but clearly, SOMETHING needs to happen and this seems like a logical first step for a lot of reasons.

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