In Israel, you can’t be a super skinny model anymore.
A new law passed on Monday requires that male and female models in Israel must have a body mass index (or BMI, a measure of weight proportionate to height) of no less than 18.5—a standard used by the World Health Organization—or a note from a doctor saying they are not underweight before they can be hired for a modeling job. A six-foot-tall model, for example, must weigh no less than 136.5 pounds.
The legislation also bans use of models who “look underweight,” and creators of ads must disclose whether they used Photoshop or graphic programs to manipulate images to make the models look skinnier.
This is not good. I want to like the idea of not showing little kids that skinny is the only beautiful; however, this is the wrong way to go about it. This is the type of gatekeeping and control shown by governments that scare me, and the last country I want to feel that way about is Israel. Granted, this legislation has a noble goal, but isn’t it putting undue stress on naturally skinny models? Can’t people look unhealthy in ways other than weight? What sort of imagery will be controlled next?
If a business decided to set these standards for their own brand, GREAT for them. I wouldn’t go so far as to applaud it, because I don’t think having a skinny model is the be all end all of body image perception, but it would be the company’s choice.
At the end of the day, education matters in defining health to kids, and public brands, schools, the government, parents, and peer culture are all players. So yes, it is nice to see a stance taken on healthy body image. But, perhaps regulation of something not always controllable sends the wrong message and invokes unnecessary stigma. There’s gotta be another way.