Social Question

zensky's avatar

New Israeli law against underweight models - good, bad or ugly?

Asked by zensky (13291 points ) March 20th, 2012

Though I think it is a wonderful advancement – and as the father of a daughter I am familiar with weight/appearance issues almost all women have, sadly, I have seen some arguments against the ruling, even from women (including models, of course).

Thoughts?

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56 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

There should also be a law against overweight models. But can not have that, can we now?!

Aethelflaed's avatar

Really? :(

Look, I’d love for body images to be healthier. (Do you guys have the same waif image as the dominant image that we do?) But, I also want them to be diverse. And weight is not actually an indicator of how healthy that particular person is, nor is there one set weight that everyone just falls into if they eat right and exercise. Some people are naturally very skinny, some are naturally a bit heavier, some are really right in the middle but will have a butt no matter what… The key is diversity. Too often, the attempt by one group to stop being shamed goes rather quickly from “hey, my body is ok!” to “no, those other women are the ones who should feel ashamed!” It’d be nice if we could be actually accepting instead of just shifting the target of hatred.

Also, the shift needs to be cultural, not from the state. The state needs to stay far, far away from people’s rights to bodily autonomy. This isn’t going to do anything but infringe upon people’s rights if girls are still getting called fatties in school the second they gain 5 pounds, or watching sitcoms in which a male character would rather die than sleep with “fatties/uggos”.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Harmless, basically ineffectual, and kind of stupid. It is trying legislate human behavior on a rather trivial subject. After all, how many people will it truly affect? Maybe a dozen?

Seems like a total waste of time and energy to satisft the whim of one pressure group.

cazzie's avatar

The underweight women modelling the clothes look more and more like clothes hangers, so I think we should pass a law that only clothes hangers should model clothing. After all, that is how we see them in the store.

tom_g's avatar

Bad law with good intentions.

CWOTUS's avatar

The arrogance and conceit of lawmakers has always amazed me (and sadly probably always will). To think that they can cure disease, cure social ills and make things better just by passing a law.

If there were laws against stupidity, they’d all be in jail.

stardust's avatar

While I’m all to aware of body image issues, I think this law is pointless as I can’t see it having much, if any impact at all.

marinelife's avatar

Weight should not be legislated. Ever.

KatawaGrey's avatar

A law telling anyone, male or female, what they can or cannot do with their bodies is a bad law. Now, it’s okay to tell skinny women they can’t be models. Next, it’ll be women with a certain cup size. Then, women with a certain skin tone. This law is ridiculous and potentially dangerous and discriminatory.

Wanna know a law I’d like to see passed? A law against discrimination based on body type.

JLeslie's avatar

@zensky What are the minimum weight requirements? I’m not against the idea assuming it is a very low weight for the minimum. It would protect the models theoretically.

As a side note, our military has weight requirements, so weight is monitored in the US already for some jobs.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@JLeslie: And there are height requirements for astronauts. The difference is that these are both jobs where physical limitations are felt harder and can actually damage the people or, at the very least, make the job much more difficult. A 100 pound soldier can’t carry a fellow soldier and a 6’7 astronaut would take up space on a shuttle that can’t be spared. Also, are these physical requirements enforced by law? Is it illegal for an underweight person to join the military?

JLeslie's avatar

@KatawaGrey I have no idea if there are minimum weight restrictions on military, I know there are maximum weight, and they do some other measurements like waist circumference to allow for people who might have a high percentage of muscle. I also know my dad, and a girlfriend of mine, were always very close to the max, they worried about it whenever they were weighed in.

Even for military, if they can do the job, carry the 6’7” soldier, should they be thrown out of the military for their weight? I think weight restrictions has more to do with being a weight that is not “becoming for a soldier.” For situations that require being a certain size, all that is needed is measurements, not weight.

Edit: Actually, I think they measure body fat in the military too. The rules have probably changed since my dad was in. I’m going to look it up.

JLeslie's avatar

@KatawaGrey By the way, my dad was military, but not armed services. He sat a desk in a government building approving federal grants for research. He still was weighed in.

wundayatta's avatar

They just haven’t gone far enough. What we need is to develop polity-approved categories for the way women look. Let’s say… ten categories… no, nine… just to pick a random number. These categories need to represent a statistically determined grouping of the types of humans by race, age, weight and hair color, and clothing manufacturers will have to use models from these groupings. The number of pictures of each type of model must equate to the prevalence of that model type within overall society.

But let’s not stop there. Let’s mandate the kind of clothes that individuals must buy, so that we can make sure clothing manufacturers continue to make a profit. We don’t want them to suffer from our decisions about how they market clothes, do we?

So everyone must have clothes of certain types in their wardrobes. The Federal clothes protective service (FCPS) will conduct random inspections of people wardrobes to make sure they are consuming the appropriate number of politically correct clothing.

But wait! There’s more! This is all so inefficient. Why bother with any marketing scheme at all? Why not just manufacture the clothes and send them to each person automatically, no questions asked? It will be paid for through taxes, of course, except there will be no taxes because you won’t earn anything when you work. You will work for love. The state will take care of your physical needs.

So we won’t need models, at all. Instead, all models will be retired at 60% of their former earnings. They will be able to cavort at the seaside, knowing they are the very icon of a certain body type. We will all be happy because we will no longer have to shop for clothes. Clothes will arrive at our door in the mail, and we won’t have to worry about whether it is fashionable or not. The state will have determined fashion for us.

Won’t we be in heaven then? I can hardly stand the thought of never having to step foot inside a clothing store again in my life. It’s better than the internet! Not only won’t I have to go in a store, but I won’t have to ever think about clothes or fashion again!

Hey! I’m like half Jewish or something. Doesn’t that mean Israel has to take me in? Never mind that I don’t know a thing about Judaism. If that’s the price I have to pay to free myself from the tyranny of the fashion industry, I’m signing up!

KatawaGrey's avatar

@JLeslie: So, yes? It is illegal for a person of a certain weight to be in the military? There is a law governing how much military personnel can weigh? Having weight requirements be part of a job is one thing, but having laws to enforce those requirements is out of line.

JLeslie's avatar

@KatawaGrey True, I see the distinction you are making. In England wrinkles are not allowed to be airbrushed out if the product being advertised is a wrinkle cream, and they can not photoshop a waistline if the product is for losing weight. I wonder if those are advertising laws, or a standard set by the industry? I had assumed it is a law. I am not fighting for my position, rather just pointing these things out.

Generally I think of military as government, and essentially it is like a law. My dad was military, held military rank, commissioned officer, but if you asked him he would say he worked for the government. Part of it is because of the branch of service he was in, and partly because that is the lingo used in the DC area. I guess one can sue the government and the military of course for creating rules that are not acceptable, but it is difficult to do.

There was a famous case against an airline, I think Southwest, regarding their weight requirments. If I remeber correctly it was determined if someone can do the job and does not inhibit business, they can’t be excluded because of weight. There is still wiggle room there, because if their weight affects the comfort of the customers, or causes them to not fly with Southwest because all their flight attendants are large, they can argue it hurts business, whether it seems fair or not. But, as I think it through, the law wound up on the side of not wanting weight rules in companies, so it would seem counterintuitice for there to be a law to require certain weights based on that example.

But, I still think it is to protect the models, so a law might be a good thing assuming the minimum is very low. Many of them barely eat to reach the weight the industry seeks.

nikipedia's avatar

I think it’s fine. If the law said that all humans had to maintain a certain weight, that would be problematic. But requiring people to maintain a certain healthy weight range to work in a particular industry in which there has historically been an arms race moving faster and faster? That has widespread, negative social repercussions? That has caused more than one fatality? The law seems totally appropriate to me.

OpryLeigh's avatar

How do they decide what is underweight? Not giving girls who have been diagnosed with an eating disorder modelling jobs is a good thing in my opinion (and if this is the case I am surprised that so many people here are against it) but if they are just deciding what is underweight purely on looks alone then it is a horrible thing. Skinny doesn’t necessarily mean anorexic.

tom_g's avatar

Ok, I went back and looked at the news report on it: link

Wow. There are so many WTF things about this, I don’t know where to begin.

From the article: “We want to break the illusion that the model we see is real,”
Huh? This law is about banning “underweight” models in advertising. Are they seriously talking about breaking illusions in advertising without laughing? Isn’t the entire exercise of advertising to manufacture desires for things we don’t need by creating illusions of happiness and health?

More from the article: “In Israel, about 2 percent of all girls between 14 and 18 have severe eating disorders, a rate similar to other developed countries, said anthropologist Sigal Gooldin, who studies eating disorders.”

And what percent are obese? Has Israel outlawed fast food or unhealthy food commercials? How about tv commercials that advertise automobiles? How many people die in Israel each year from auto accidents? And what about non-weight related beauty? How many kids are suffering from that?

Isn’t the problem that we have these huge industries that only function if they are successful at creating an image that different from what people currently have so it will feed the capitalist machine?

I hate to be put in a position to defend an industry that presents completely disgusting and unrealistic images of what a woman should look like. The thing is – I’m not defending them. The entire fashion and advertising industry is a problem, in my opinion. But to legislate ethical considerations on a morally-bankrupt industry is like requiring that factory farms read a nice soothing story to their chickens right before slaughter.

nikipedia's avatar

@tom_g, I don’t understand your argument. It sounds to me like you’re saying that legislation up to and including this law don’t go far enough, so the government shouldn’t even try with this law?

JLeslie's avatar

@tom_g The stat 2% of teens have eating disorders does not sway me one way or the other, my concern is the actual models being forced to starve themselves to get a job. I actually think the eating disorder number should be much higher, because I think teens who are bese have disprders that need to be addressed also.

SpatzieLover's avatar

I think some people interpret this law incorrectly. It has more to do with changing the industry perspective and less to do with individual models.

If the industry understands Big Brother is looking over their shoulder, then they will not be forcing young girls to be skeletal to model their wares.

tom_g's avatar

@nikipedia – Sorry. I’m not very articulate.

I’ll try to come back here shortly to rephrase what I have said. I only have a minute. But maybe if you reread my post with the following in mind, you’ll have a better idea of where I’m coming from.

I don’t believe the problem is that corporations have created an unrealistic ideal of a woman that young girls should strive to look like. I believe the problem is that we look towards corporations to provide any ideal image of female beauty.

I think things are so messed up concerning mass media and marketing, that it isn’t just a matter of “not going far enough”. The solution – in my opinion – requires a break with our everyday reality of mindless consumer capitalism. Not one that is legislated – but one break at a time. Legislating a representative ratio of skin color, height, weight, build, levels of ability, etc to be shown on all advertisements, tv shows, movies, commercials, print ads, and billboards will make us feel that we’re addressing the problem. But a) it’s not possible, b) it goes against our ideas of free speech, and c) it really doesn’t address the larger problem.

nikipedia's avatar

@tom_g, you’re plenty articulate and you have a good point. But let’s assume one of the roles of government is to protect people from finding themselves in very dangerous, potentially deadly situations when there are no real benefits to being in that situation. From that angle, doesn’t the law make sense?

JLeslie's avatar

@nikipedia You’re on my train of thought, you said it better.

tom_g's avatar

@nikipedia – I get what you’re saying. And while I think it’s reasonable, I don’t support it. Free speech is way too important to be curbed in an attempt to make something that is impossibly ugly slightly less ugly.

CWOTUS's avatar

@nikipedia you said ”[L]et’s assume one of the roles of government is to protect people from finding themselves in very dangerous, potentially deadly situations when there are no real benefits to being in that situation.”

Let’s not make this assumption, shall we? What bureaucrat do you want to entrust to decide that you, yourself, are not putting yourself in a potentially dangerous situation when you’re doing exactly what you want to do with your own life? I can’t name any. Maybe you have had better experiences with government than I have.

Isn’t this what “freedom” means, that we have the right to make our own decisions – even bad ones, or “potentially” bad ones? Does anyone care about it at all any more?

Can you envision any unintended consequences from such stupid law? Such as that being the rationale for any legislature deciding what is best for you, so stop worrying your little head about it; we have it all under control. Oh, and here’s your bill for our “services”.

nikipedia's avatar

@CWOTUS, the bureaucrat that I elect, obviously. This anti-government shit is so fucking irritating.

CWOTUS's avatar

Like the quote said, “You can ignore reality, but you can’t ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.”

JLeslie's avatar

@CWOTUS American freedom does not mean the right to do what ever the fuck you want. It means the right to not be held down by our legacy, our family name, the social class we are born into. The right to safety. Protection for those who need the most protecting, the vulnerable, the minority voice, the person who has less power because they have less money. Our country is a country of laws, and there is a big fat fuzzy grey line that determined when government protextion os needed, has gone too far, or is justified.

I think this particular Israeli example is much like an OSHA regulation. The owners of the business care more about their profit than the well being of theor employees, so government needs to step in, because employers are not doing the right thing on their own. If everyone acted with integrity, there would be no need for laws like this.

tom_g's avatar

@JLeslie: “I think this particular Israeli example is much like an OSHA regulation.”

Except that it’s not. I would be much more sympathetic if it was. It is specifically (correct me if I’m wrong) an advertisement issue.

Just want to state that I hope I’m not being lumped in with “this anti-government shit”. Governments are at least theoretically accountable. Corporations are not. People who have heard my rants before know that I’m Mr. Big Government. Free speech, however, is something I don’t budge on. I’m also not a fan of symbolic measures to address real problems.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

I think it was a law spawned of fat legislators, or those pandering to the fat caucus. A bone thin model with no curves might not be as appealing to gaze upon, but she knows she can get into 4 to 6 dresses at a fashion show with room to spare, unlike trying to pry some blubber babe into a couture gown like trying to stuff a sausage sleeve.

fundevogel's avatar

Like scads of people above me I think this is an overly intrusive bit of legislation that vastly over simplifies the problem it tries to address. If the problem is companies perpetuating unhealthy body types and enabling models with eating disorders why not actually hit the corporations directly? Make them culpable for the health of their models. That would provide a disincentive to hire models that weren’t taking care of themselves and would discourage them from creating an environment that encourages unhealthy habits.

Aethelflaed's avatar

It seems like if I’m someone who has an eating disorder, and thus feels intensely ashamed about my body, having the government take steps to say my body isn’t ok won’t then make me feel better, or do anything to actually help me. It’ll just put me out of a job.

nikipedia's avatar

@Aethelflaed, if you have an eating disorder your job shouldn’t depend on making yourself as skinny as possible.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@nikipedia… huh? I’m not following. No job should depend on making myself as skinny as possible, regardless of disordered eating. But this just seems to further shaming of bodies.

nikipedia's avatar

@Aethelflaed, I do not think it is a stretch to say that in its current state, a professional modeling career requires one to be as skinny as possible.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@nikipedia I would agree with that. That doesn’t mean this particular law isn’t furthering the hurt.

ETA: The new law is based on BMI. Not actual malnourishment, not disordered eating as diagnosed by a psychologist who specializes in disorder eating, just a statistical calculation that was never, ever meant to be used to diagnose actual health, and has been deeply criticized as continuing to perpetuate a lack of health. If they’re so concerned, why not make a law requiring more diversity – say, models have to be split evenly across whatever sizes are offered. So if you offer 5 sizes, only 20% of models can be the thinnest size, and then each progressing size has 20% of the models.

tom_g's avatar

@nikipedia: “I do not think it is a stretch to say that in its current state, a professional modeling career requires one to be as skinny as possible.”

You’re right. It’s disgusting. However…the more I think about this, I’m thinking this is really just a labor issue, right?

flutherother's avatar

I don’t understand the ‘bony look’ in women but I don’t think legislation is the right way to control it. In the UK the Advertising Standards Authority has banned advertisements that feature skinny models calling them ‘socially irresponsible’.

fundevogel's avatar

@tom_g ”…the more I think about this, I’m thinking this is really just a labor issue, right?”

I’m not sure what you mean, could you elaborate?

augustlan's avatar

[mod says] This is our Question of the Day!

josie's avatar

I guess the people who view the ads of underweight models simply can not draw their own conclusions about themselves, their lives, their bodies, their happiness etc. Thank God the government is there to remedy all that. Where would we be without the loving protection of the wonderful shepherd that is government.
When the Israelis, some of whom have been my personal heroes in war and politics, fall victim to this pitiful nonsense, I get an uneasy sense that all may be lost.

JLeslie's avatar

@tom_g There is more than one issue. The article you link speaks of many models starving themselves, being hospitalized, cessation of thei menstrual cycle, and one died. I am not thrilled with government making a law about something like this, but then the industry should monitor itself so the models they employ are a healthy weight within reason. Some designers do go for a reasonably sized model, but most don’t. The problem is in when you are in that environment it looks normal, people start to lose sight of what is normal. The article says for 5’8” the minimum weight is 119 pounds, that is pretty skinny.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@JLeslie That is skinny, but not so skinny as to be clinically anorexic. You can be that BMI and still be nourished properly, still have your period, etc.

JLeslie's avatar

@Aethelflaed if someone wants to argue the number should be 110 not 119, and the BMI a little lower, fine they should argue try to change the law. I just think it is not a terrible idea to say to the industry that wanting such skinny models is not good. Most models are not super fit with amazing muscle to fat ratios. They are usually just thin. And, worth mentioning I think, I don’t mind at all that models are generally thin and beautiful. I am not keen on having large girls and women model fashion. I know that sounds awful, but America is too fat in general, and I don’t think messages that it is ok to be heavy is a good idea. I think most plus size models are actually 12’s, which isn’t huge. But, if that is true, keep in mind plus size really begins at 16.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@JLeslie You’re right, that does sound awful.

JLeslie's avatar

@Aethelflaed I just don’t get why people might be concerned about models too thin and not too fat? I know you are on the side of not having any laws dictating these things, and I assume are all for showing women in all shapes and sizes, but I am just wondering do you think it is awful when people don’t want to look at anoerexic models, or just when they say they don’t want to look at size 16 models? Meanwhile, I got 4 GA’s so I will assume some people agree with me. And, I don’t mean a larger size person disgusts me, not at all, I just mean if we, as a society, are going to worry about advertising affecting young women, hell all women and men for that matter, what people perceive as desireable, we should probably be worried on both ends.

cazzie's avatar

It is so hard to legislate against human nature. If seeing pictures of super skinny models caused eating disorders, we would all have one. I agree with everyone here that mentions that the problem they are trying to fix goes much deeper and this is a simplistic and sort of silly attempt when you really examine it.

I LOVE the fact that Israel trains their women in the military the way they do. That has got to be damn empowering to a woman to know how to fight and fire an AK47.

More ‘role models’ (pun intended) need to presented to young women to show them what is possible in life and they are NOT dependent on ‘cute’ or ‘sexy’ to get by. Funding female guest speakers to visit schools and present themselves and their lives to show young girls and women what is really out there for them would be a much better use of time and energy, I would think.

JLeslie's avatar

@cazzie I think probably no matter what young girls worry about cute and sexy, and the boys being attracted to them, and being in the popular cliques at school. I agree with you 100% that having role models to speak at the schools is a great idea, and hopefully helps to inspire girls to worry less about their outward appearance, and to not tie feeling secure and confident to how they look. This is one reason I like separating the sexes at the k-12 level.

I wonder just how different these pressures are in an environment void of media and advertising? Would be interesting to know.

mattbrowne's avatar

Good.

Countries like Spain and Italy already have such laws in place. There’s an anorexia study that backs government ban on underweight models, see

http://www2.lse.ac.uk/newsAndMedia/news/archives/2012/03/anorexia.aspx

CWOTUS's avatar

Well, I’ve seen the light. I’ve been blind, but now I see. This is absolutely a good thing.

But why stop there?

We should have laws against weak-hitting shortstops in Major League Baseball, too. If you can’t hit the curve ball, then you’re breaking the law and should be prosecuted. Come to think of it, umpires should have their eyes examined – by an Act of Congress – because some of their bad calls have robbed teams of a chance at the pennant.

For that matter, we should pass another law that everyone shall have above-average intelligence. That ought to fix things right proper.

I see unlimited possibility for growth in this industry.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@cazzie No one is claiming that the causation here is the kind one finds in physics. They are saying it’s the kind one finds in—surprise, surprise—psychology. Psychological causation is less determinate than physical causation, which is why it is no mark against the theory you are trying to denigrate that we do not see a 100% rate of anorexia. Let’s try understanding the science before rejecting it.

@CWOTUS Slippery slope is a logical fallacy. Fallacies are what one resorts to when they don’t have an argument. Baseball has independent pressures to combat weak-hitting shortstops and bad umpires, and both of those problems are less central to overall quality of life than anorexia and self-loathing.

The bigger issue, though, is that why people think this law is an instance of the government attempting to solve the problem, as opposed to doing one small thing to affect the problem in a positive direction. I suspect that virtually no one thinks a law is going to fix anything completely, not even the people who passed it. The problem requires more than that as a solution. I think we can all agree on that, and forcing this obviously absurd psychology onto your opponents says more about you than them (specifically, it says you are not willing to obey the principle of charity to which all rational disputants are committed). But that does not mean a law cannot be one part of a solution—maybe even a temporary part.

That’s not to say the law is good. That an argument against the law is bad does not show that the law is good, nor does it show that there are not good arguments against the law. I just find it interesting how fallacious, rhetorical, and emotionally driven most of the arguments here have been.

No, I do not expect this random insertion of logic to make any difference. I’ll go now.

CWOTUS's avatar

Gosh, and I thought it was just sarcasm. Oh, wait. This is sarcasm.

My primary point from the beginning is that this is a case of swatting flies with a jackhammer. No doubt government can get what it wants from passing this law: No skinny girls will be models. Got that. Won’t happen. (Well, not in Israel, I suppose. They’ll go somewhere else, won’t they?)

My secondary point is that there are always unintended consequences. I don’t know yet what they’ll be: Skinny girls as hookers? Skinny girls just killing themselves more quietly? Government hubris thinking that maybe they can legislate intelligence? Who knows? There will be an unintended consequence or two, and it’s almost certainly bound to be worse than the current ailment that the law is trying to… what? ... cure? (What, exactly, is the ailment here, anyway? That “the industry” wants girls to be skinny? That “society” wants girls to be skinny? That the girls themselves want to be skinny? That society is so neurotic that the richer we become the more some of us starve ourselves?)

The problem with legislated unintended consequences is that politicians have ego (and power) in the game, but no skin other than their jobs. If modeling agencies were sued for wrongful death (one possible free market solution to “the problem”) then they’d start to change their practices.

Wrong problem, wrong solution. That’s all, until one or more of the consequences come up and we decide that the best way to fix them is “more legislation”.

I suppose I should take off, too. Being on the wrong side of statism seems to annoy people. Next thing you know, it’ll be illegal to annoy people with honest debate and opinion.

PS: I don’t think it’s a “slippery slope” argument when it’s been demonstrated repeatedly that “this is the way governments work”.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@CWOTUS Your response just illustrates the same problem. I’m a libertarian—lowercase “l,” not capital “L”—but it’s easier for you to cry “statist!” and pretend that’s a response to the fact that your argument is uncharitable and fallacious. But it’s not a response. Laws like this have been pushed before in other countries, yet you insist on making predictions about what might happen rather than looking at what has happened already. Are you uninterested in what is actually the case? Are your dogmas that valuable to you?

zensky's avatar

By the way – this law hasn’t been passed yet and is being discussed in the Israeli media almost daily – with many on either side of the debate. Thanks, @mattbrowne for that info. I had heard of Spain’s law – as it is tossed around as an example for the Yays, but not that Italy has one too. And think of Milan, the fashion capital of the world.

On the one hand, we hate laws and restrictions – and probably the idea of needing a law even makes us squirm.

On the other hand, Spain and Italy only? Hmmm – I’d prefer a couple of heavier hitters when it comes to law and freedoms, e.g. America and Britain.

On the third hand (I’m a jelly) I’m a father of a girl and aware of the problem here. Is this the solution? I think I have to think on it some more. I just brought the story. Thank you all for making this so interesting, and for this being the Question of the Day. My first, in over a thousand questions. Yes, I suck basically.

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