Fashion magazines, advertisers, and clothing designers are routinely coming under fire for the use of stick thin models and the liberal use of Photoshop. We’ve reported on attempts at regulation of the such misleading or harmful images in the past. But, legislation passed yesterday in Israel banning underweight models from local advertising and requiring publications to disclose when they use altered images to make models appear thinner, is the first of its kind.
The law requires models to produce a medical report stating that they are not malnourished by World Health Organization standards which use body mass index (BMI is calculated by dividing weight by height) as a standard. According to these standards, a BMI below 18.5 is indicative of malnutrition, which means for example that a woman 5 feet 8 inches tall should weigh no less than 119 pounds.
Of course these standards are a bit arbitrary, since the difference between at 120-pound and 118-pound model isn’t likely to be too distinguishable. Some are pushing back on those standards, saying that the guidelines should be based on the health and appearance of the model rather that BMI. The Madrid fashion show bans women whose BMI is below 18. Milan’s fashion week bans models with a BMI below 18.5. The U.K. and U.S. have guidelines, but the fashion industry is self-regulated.
The Israeli law goes further to require that any advertisement published for the Israeli market must have a clearly written notice disclosing if the model used in it was digitally altered to look thinner. But the law will not apply to foreign publications sold in Israel.
What do you think? Is this a good step to help regulate an industry that perpetuates unhealthy images? Or is the focus misplaced?