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Israel’s ban of underweight models a step in right direction

Published: Saturday, April 14, 2012

Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 16:08

models runway

AP Photo

Israel's new law to ban underweight models will require all models to have a Body Mass Index of at least 18.5, and an up-to-date doctors note prior to being hired for a job.

In an attempt to stop the spread of eating disorders, Israel’s parliament passed a law March 20 banning the use of underweight models for advertising in Israel. In addition, the law requires the fashion industry to properly label pictures that have been altered or photoshopped to make the models, both male and female, seem even skinnier than what the industry has already expected them to be.

What once was viewed as an illness is now viewed as a symbol of beauty. In the last 20 years, underweight young women have become the new concept of sexual attraction, typically led by the fashion industry’s standards of beauty. An increasing rate of young men and women are developing eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia nervosa. According to the South Carolina Department of Mental Health, anorexia is the third most common chronic illness among adolescents. People’s perception of beauty is often influenced by the media. Children pursue the fantasy of the “ideal” body shape that is seen as incredibly natural on the media but, in reality, is abnormal and often happens to be a simple design on the computer.

The Israel law requires a standard Body Mass Index of the models to be higher than 18.5, which, for a woman, is 5 feet and 8 inches tall and weighing no less than 119 pounds. Models are required to present a note from a doctor no older than three months prior to the photoshoot as a condition to be hired. Critics argue that the law is a good idea but its means are not affective enough. They argue against the method of measurement which relies on height and weight while leaving other significant factors, such as muscle and fat, out of the formula. Many models are naturally thin, but according to critics it does not mean that they are not healthy.

This is an action the Israeli parliament has taken in order to reduce the negative impact of the fashion industry on children and teenagers. The law is not only intended to prevent eating disorders from happening within the modeling world, but also to increase awareness of the negative impact the fashion industry has on our society. The law is the first attempt by a government to use legislation to regulate the fashion industry.

There are many organizations and campaigns that try to help people who suffer from eating disorders and also to try to prevent them. Italy launched a famous campaign against anorexia in 2008 with nude pictures of Isabelle Caro, a famous actress who suffered from anorexia since the age of 13. In 2006, the Italian government and the fashion industry created a voluntary code of conduct requiring models to show medical proof they do not suffer from eating disorders.

Unfortunately, the law that was passed in Israel does not extend to models and pictures not shot by an Israeli company. The problem is still here. We can only wish that through other governments’ intervention, the use of unhealthy, underweight models will be banned from our society, therefore reducing the negative impact of the fashion industry on the adolescents’ self image and society’s perception of beauty.

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