Israel among first to pass law banning underweight models
By Nick Watts
With the fashion industry under continued scrutiny around the idealisation of underweight or ‘skinny’ models at the front of people’s minds of late it was only a matter of time before a country moved on it.
One of the largest reasons for the reporting of model sizes has been blame being apportioned to them for the rise of eating disorders, now while I don’t believe that the industry alone can be blamed for the rise in eating disorders and a low self esteem they certainly need to be held accountable for the sexualised imagery and as a contributor to the obsession with skinny that has become the norm in today’s society. It is important to remember that eating disorders are complex psychological disorders and while these images won’t alone cause these sort of issues they can go a long way to maintain the distorted thinking associated with them.
So what has Israel done?
Israel are among the first in the world to pass such a law, which prohibits models who are underweight from gaining work, with them required to have a recent doctors certification of their fitness to work. This is being judged by their BMI (Body Mass Index) requiring them to attain a healthy score (over 18.5) to be able to work. The law also includes legislation requiring advertisers to clearly label imagery which has been altered through means such as ‘photoshopping’.
The move has been welcomed by many body confidence campaigners and at the same time criticised by many others, branding the use of BMI as a measurement to be too general, saying that the health of a model should be used instead. One of Israel’s top models now fears she will not be able to gain work with a BMI of 18.3 “despite exercising and eating well”. It is a fact that the BMI is not the most reliable indicator of physical health, with many perfectly healthy people falling below the 18.5 mark, who are just naturally slight, with the opposite end of the scale such as rugby players showing as obese, despite being in peak physical health.
While I have never been the biggest advocate of the BMI, sharing the concerns of many of these people, this is certainly a step in the right direction and acknowledgment that our sexualised culture and obsession with ‘skinny’ is damaging people young and old in our society and that all sectors, including the fashion and advertising industries need to be responsible in the images they are portraying.
Sarah Fullagar, from the UK organisation Body Gossip comments;
“It’s a great step forward in educating people and reminding them on a regular basis that these images have been altered and hopefully encourage them to realise they are often setting unrealistic expectations on what you can achieve with your body.
In regards to the limits on models I believe that the BMI is not always a good indication of a person’s health but this is definitely a step in the right direction.”
It will be interesting to watch the progress as Israel progress with implementing the legislation, how strict will they enforce it, how will they enforce it? It is my opinion that other countries should see this as a benchmark of helping to combat some of the key issues affecting people from all walks of life when we start talking about the way we see ourselves and the way we engage in dialogue about our bodies. Although I don’t believe BMI measurement to be ideal it is certainly a move which enforces the importance of body confidence as a movement and it does acknowledge what many campaigners have said for many years. There does need to be more diversity in fashion, advertisers do have a responsibility to behave in an ethical, healthy way and legislation of this sort will go some way in regulating an industry that has proved to be irresponsible time and time again.