The protruding edges of hip bones used to be a defining feature of most fashion runways. Jutting collarbones, visible ribcages, and minimal curves have long made up the standard body type used to showcase what fashion designers have created for their next season’s clothing line.
This body type, possessed naturally by a very small portion of the population, sets a dangerous standard for what is “in”. Finally, that’s about to change.
In France, Parliament has motioned to make it illegal to use models below a specific Body Mass Index (BMI), following Spain and Israel (who have taken similar actions). As part of a public health bill, Parliament adopted this amendment that will go to the Senate. The fine print of the amendment would ban anyone under a certain BMI from being paid to model.
Though BMI’s reliability as a measure of health is attached to some controversy, France’s designated BMI level would prevent anyone in the “underweight” range from being paid for their modeling without heavy fines to their agency. If this law passes, it will signify an even bigger leap towards the end of an era where the “fragile” look is considered fashionable.
Whether or not a person is inclined to follow trends or stay up-to-date with the latest styles, it’s undeniable that both designers and models have helped set the standard for society’s current beauty ideal. That standard, for years, has portrayed a body type that’s unhealthy for many of us to think we can attain for ourselves. There’s very little room for women to feel they are thin enough to be attractive.
Though I couldn’t care less about the fashion world, I have struggled with the negative impact that fashion-related media can have. As a female adolescent, it was very difficult for me, like so many others, to distinguish which was better: being at my healthy weight, or being at a weight that matched that of the runway models.
In a culture that glorifies an appearance that could potentially lead to death, it seemed nearly impossible to find a good reason not to strive for the smallest figure.
Having grown from an adolescent to a young woman, however, I now realize that health is attractive, no matter what someone’s pants size may be. There is no defining weight, size, or BMI at which we will magically feel happiness — it comes from so much more than that.
Rates of eating disorders have increased since the fashion industry adopted the emaciated look as its logo — perhaps (and hopefully!), as the emblem changes from one of starvation to one of health, the rates of eating disorders will decrease, as more young women will find it easier to attain a positive body image.
Spain, Israel, and France should be commended for making these regulations that will allow for a more expanded, wholesome perspective of beauty — your turn, America!
Carina Chiodo has been accepted into the Nutrition Science Master’s program at CSU Chico, which she will begin as a graduate student in Fall 2015. Stand-up comedy, applewood-smoked bacon, and travelling are all amongst some of her favorite things, and one of her New Year’s resolutions is to go outside the USA this year. She considers one of her top accomplishments to be her title as an About-Face blogger, due to her loves of writing and having a positive impact on young women.
Well, I can certainly understand the motivation behind this legislation, and I agree that too thin models are problematic, I don’t agree with this approach.
Imagine if the reverse legislation was enacted – anyone OVER a certain BMI could not be paid to model? Because it’s not healthy?
Is it really desirable to have a law that says, “THESE bodies are OK but THOSE ones are not?” Doesn’t this just contribute to the policing of women’s bodies? I think it’s a dangerous idea.
In addition, all this will lead to is everyone in the industry getting as close to the rules as possible. Thin will STILL be in, and it will still be unobtainable for most, it will just be slightly less thin.
I don’t think this is the right approach. I’d much prefer something closer to mandating the AVERAGE BMI of the models in a show. Want to have some super thin women? Great! Just have some heavier ones to balance them. This would be difficult from a regulatory perspective, but I believe perhaps an industry organization that designers/retailers/etc. could choose to join might get us closer to what we actually want – more diversity and acknowledgement that “real” “beautiful” women come in many shapes and sizes, and that you can’t judge someone’s health by their BMI. Policing women’s bodies is wrong, period, even when motivated by the best of intentions.