Israel has made headlines with a controversial new law that prohibits the hire and use of any model to be considered underweight (a BMI of less than 18.5). This law is the first of its kind and applies to both male and female models in advertising and on the catwalk. For example, a 5’11” tall model must weigh at least 132.7 lbs (giving them a BMI of 18.51) in order to be hired for a job in Israel.
Under the new law, when models go for jobs they must now produce a doctor’s report that is no more than three months old which certifies their weight. Publications must also state if the image of the model has been digitally edited to make them appear thinner.
According to the Associated Press (via BBC News), approximately 2 percent of Israeli girls between 14 and 18 suffer from severe eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. That rate is also estimated to be similar in Canada and the U.S.
While, yes, some people are naturally very thin and do not necessarily have an eating disorder, a BMI of 18.5 is underweight by the World Health Organization’s standards. I think Israel is setting an important precedent here on an issue more countries should be concerned about.
Banning underweight models and being forthcoming about photoshop use is a start, but if campaigns are using young models at the ages of 14 and 16 for adult based ads, the message is the same: thin is in. Models this young do not yet have a woman’s body and with the amazing things that can be done with makeup, could easily be made up to look as if they’re an adult while still maintaining a slim, hipless shape. Maybe we need to look at the age of the models appearing in ads as adults as well.
Do you think Canada should follow suit with a similar ban on the use of underweight models?