The US could take a hint from Israel on this one

Trudel Pare, Opinions Editor

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Fashion models have become too thin. Starting with models like Twiggy in the 1960s, the ideals of beauty for women have been getting thinner and thinner throughout the twentieth century. In Israel recently, a law was passed to halt this alarming trend of women who have begun to be described as walking hangers.

Any model with a body mass index of less than 18.5 will not be allowed to work as a model in Israel. Any company who decides to digitally alter their models must place some kind of disclaimer on the picture stating that the person pictured has been digitally altered. This law, however, does not apply to foreign publications sold in Israel.

This law is aimed at the growing percentage of young women who suffer from eating disorders in Israel. Currently, about 2% of the country’s women suffer from severe eating disorders, and this number is closely paralleled throughout the developed world. Proponents of the law say that it is entirely reasonable, and that it is simply meant to demonstrate to the public that the standards of beauty advertised in many magazines is unrealistic and unattainable.

They have a very fair point; a BMI of 18.5 is indicative of borderline malnutrition, and anything under that would be too thin for a safe lifestyle for most women. Additionally, for an average 5’8” model, a BMI of 18.5 translates roughly to 119 pounds, which is not extremely restrictive when looking at the average model. Only about 5% of women have a BMI that naturally falls under 18.5.

Opponents of the bill, however, argue for that five percent. Top Israeli model Adi Neumann says that she won’t be able to work under the new law because her BMI is naturally 18.3. She and other critics suggest that instead of cutting off models that are under the arbitrary line of a BMI of 18.5, they should require women to go to doctors and get regular checkups while modeling, and maintain a healthy lifestyle and diet no matter what their body type.

Other guidelines around the world use the BMI, however; fashion shows in Madrid ban models with a BMI of less than 18, and Milan bans women with a BMI of less than 18.5.

Despite the critics’ beliefs, these regulations are both necessary and timely. Increasing rates of anorexia and bulimia have are not simply a minor issue anymore. Recently, a model from Uruguay died of an anorexia-related heart failure after a runway show. Deaths like this have occurred around the world, and the fashion industry has turned a blind eye to it, preferring to instead rake in millions of dollars at the expense of these women. In the words of Legislator Adato, “On the one hand, maybe we’ll hurt a few models. On the other hand, we’ll save a lot of children.”

The United States needs to take a hint from Israel. After the Dove campaign for Real Beauty turned out to be something of a scam, women and girls need something to look up to that is not a photo-shopped image of an already beautiful woman. Teachers, executives, and even the media preach messages of self-esteem and confidence to young women, but the fashion industry is taking the most beautiful group of women they could find and telling them that they are not good enough. This dichotomy should not be tolerated by women, who should stand up and demand answers from a fashion industry that is self-regulated, badly, and a government that is sitting by and watching that happen.


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