Much has been made of the link between the skinny (often too skinny) models we see in campaigns, on the runways, in magazines, and eatings disorders. The logic goes that women are presented with unrealistically skinny models and feel pressured to look like them. But never before have government policies been enforced to prevent too-skinny models (or models that have been digitally altered to be too thin) from being used.
In a landmark decision, Israel passed a law on Monday that bans the use of underweight models in local ads and publications. It marks the first attempt by any government to tackle the fashion industry's connection to the growing rate of eating disorders, the AP is reporting.
The new law will require that models produce a medical report, dating back no longer than three months, at each shoot to prove they are not malnourished by World Health Organization standards. By those standards, models with a body mass index of less than 18.5 will be considered malnourished and will be prevented from working. What's more, any advertisement published for the Israeli market will have to clearly disclose if the model used was digitally altered to appear thinner.
"We want to break the illusion that the model we see is real," said Liad Gil-Har, assistant to politician Dr. Rachel Adato, a supporter of the new law.
While the law definitely seems like a step in the right direction, it has its critics. Israeli top model Adi Neumann said that it was unfair to judge a model's health based on her BMI, noting that she, herself, had a BMI of less than 18.5 despite her healthy lifestyle.
David Herzog, a professor of psychiatry and a leading U.S. expert on eating disorders, agrees: "The health of the model ... should be evaluated. Our weight can change hour to hour."
The issue of judging someone's health based on their weight has proved to be a hot button one in the US but Israeli legislator Adato seemed untroubled by it. "On the one hand, maybe we'll hurt a few models," she said. "On the other hand, we'll save a lot of children." She added that only 5 percent of women had BMI that naturally fell under 18.5, which is something that critics and consumers alike should keep in mind: It's true that some women are naturally underweight by WHO standards but for the vast majority it's an unhealthy and unattainable weight.
Since Israel only has about 300 professional models, and since the law only applies to photos and ads that will run locally in Israel, the new law is unlikely to affect many models' careers. The hope, though, is that it does much more: Adato says she thinks the new law could be an example to other developed countries struggling with similar issues.
The question is: Do you think Israel's new law could work stateside? Do you think the US should consider similar options?