By John Nathan

(Quotes courtesy of the Huffington Post)

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Last month, journalists Diaa Hadid and Daniella Cheslow shined the spotlight on a new Israeli law that bans underweight models and undisclosed airbrushing practices in advertising.  The fashion industry has long been criticized for the images of beauty reflected in young, extremely thin models – typically female.  Young women, who often feel pressured to live up to unrealistic standards, have, in many cases, turned to extreme dieting and have developed dangerous eating disorders in their quest for unattainable perfection.

Israel’s new law requires models to produce a medical report no older than three months at every shoot for the Israeli market, stating that they are not malnourished by World Health Organization standards which suggest that a body mass index below 18.5 indicates malnutrition. According to that standard, a woman 1.72 meters tall (5-feet-8) should weigh no less than 119 pounds (54 kilograms).

The new legislation also requires that any advertisement published for the Israeli market post a clearly written notice disclosing whether or not the models featured in the ad were made to look thinner through digital manipulation.

(INSERT STAT) The law’s supporters hope it will encourage the use of healthy models and combat the growing eating disorder epidemic among young women and girls.

“We want to break the illusion that the model we see is real,” said Liad Gil-Har, assistant to law sponsor Dr. Rachel Adato, who compared the battle against eating disorders to the struggle against smoking.

Critics say the legislation should have focused on health, not weight, arguing that many models are naturally thin.

“The health of the model … should be evaluated. Our weight can change hour to hour,” said David Herzog, a professor of psychiatry and a leading U.S. expert on eating disorders.

Surprisingly, though, the law has garnered support within the fashion industry – from models and agents alike.  The industry, which has suffered increased scrutiny in the wakes of the recent deaths of South American models reportedly from eating disorder complications, has also taken measures to self-regulate.

Currently, fashion shows in Madrid, Spain ban women whose BMI is below 18. Milan’s Fashion Week bans models with a BMI below 18.5.

The fashion industries in both the United Kingdom and United States are self-regulated.

But, the real question is, even with increased standards, laws and regulation, will any of this have the desired, long-lasting impact on society?  Will eating disorders be eradicated if models are depicted as simply very thin, as opposed to ultra-thin?

Wiles wants to hear from you, so please Join the Conversation!  Let us know what you think of this new law and the media’s role in shaping society’s values and standards of beauty.


Follow Diaa Hadid on Twitter @diaahadid


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