Should the government weigh our models?

– Alison Bowerman, staff

What would you say if I were to tell you the government was going to pass a law that said if you were over a certain weight, you would not be permitted a job as a model? That is, a law which required agencies to monitor the weight of their models and prohibit any working model to be over a certain size.

I don’t believe a person should be turned away from a job based on their size any more than a person should be turned away based on their ethnicity. However, being over weight is not the proposed law causing controversy today. The law is to require models be over a certain BMI if they are to be hired by agencies. A lot of people consider this a good thing, as there are many issues regarding body image as a result of ultra thin models in the media.

In 2007, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) established a health initiative regarding these thin models. Early in 2012, they established new guidelines for the initiative including education on the warning signs of eating disorders where models identified with an eating disorder may only continue to model with a professional’s approval; prohibiting the hiring of models under the age of 16 for runway shows; prohibiting models under 18 from working past midnight and providing healthy snacks and water during fashion shows and photo shoots.

Now, because of a study conducted in England, there is pressure on the government to enforce rules regarding the weight of these models. The study found that girls surrounded by extremely thin peers and exposed to thin models on magazines were more likely to have negative body image. The government’s involvement is said to be extremely helpful in preventing eating disorders.

It’s important to note that the CFDA would not require the minimum of a certain weight or BMI, nor would it require a physician’s approval for the model to continue working. The proposal that the government get involved would be more than promoting health and would go as far as to require health in the modeling industry.

The issue with weight being regulated by the government is that weight is not the only component of an eating disorder. In fact, it is possible for a woman to be underweight without having an eating disorder. So is it fair to punish a woman with a naturally thin body? Is it fair to ignore other suffering models simply because their bodies may not reflect their eating disorder? The government has not released a plan to do so, and there have not been a specific BMI that should be required as a minimum for models, but you can be sure any bottom line will require exceptions or will provide loopholes for agencies and models.

In my opinion, it is not the extreme thinness within the modeling industry, but rather the homogeneous appearance of models that is the problem. If there were a fair representation of all body types in the fashion industry, models might not feel the pressure to be painfully thin simply to acquire a job. Similarly, women wouldn’t feel the only way to obtain beauty is to become a carbon copy of women who pose for advertisements.

Creating a law that regulates weight is an easy way out. This is a simply way of either saying yes or no to a model without taking the time to listen to their story, and ensure mental stability. Mental health is the most important aspect of an eating disorder, and weight is only one warning sign. By focusing on weight, the government ignores any other warning signs, and implies no matter how unhappy a model may be, if they appear physically healthy, they are fine. In fact, the movement only gives more power to the modeling industry, when in fact it should not be our weight that determines our careers, or who we are at all.

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