Banning Anorexic Models

NO Negative Body TalkThere has been lots of press lately covering a proposed law in France, similar to laws in Spain, Italy and Israel, banning models with a body mass index below 18.  There is research that suggests that being inundated with images of very thin women does psychological damage to women and young girls (I will note that I object to the use of “too thin” to describe the models in the article to which I linked.)

Many readers have asked how I feel about this, and the answer is that I’m disturbed by it for a number of reasons.  The first is that BMI is not a measure of health, nor does it constitute an eating disorder diagnosis.  It’s wildly inappropriate to say that they are banning “anorexic” or “unhealthy” models, when what they are really doing is banning models whose weight in pounds time 703 divided by their height in inches squared is less than 18. Anorexia and other eating disorders are extremely serious health issues and we need to drastically improve the treatment options that people are given, but that’s a subject for another post, and it’s not what’s happening here. Let’s be clear that this isn’t about providing options for treatment to these so-called “anorexic” models, they’re just trying to put them out of work.

I don’t think the problem is that there are very thin models. I think the problem is that there are almost exclusively very thin models – and actresses, and dancers, and singers. If the research is correct, I don’t think that it’s that girls are exposed to very thin women that damages them, I think it’s that they aren’t exposed to women of other sizes, or shown the diversity of body sizes that exists. And I seriously doubt that anything will be solved by having models with a BMI of 18 instead of 17.5. I think that what we need to do isn’t shift the “ideal body” stereotype half a BMI point, but rather to realize that there is no “ideal body” and celebrate and represent women of all sizes.

Even before I became a full-fledged member of the Fuck Flattering Club, I was clear that the clothes should be made to fit the people, not the other way around. I think that a big part of the problem is that people argue with a straight face that all models should be very thin because the “clothes look better” on them as if that’s not the function of a social construct that is used to reinforce classism, racism, sizeism, and sexism. Women of all sizes wear clothes, so I think that if our current designers aren’t talented enough to design clothing that looks good on women of all sizes then they are incompetent at the most fundamental level, and it’s well past time to find ourselves more talented designers.

While we’re at it, people could stop wringing their hands and acting ridiculous, blathering on about “promoting obesity” every time a woman who isn’t thin dares to be talented, or happy, or to insist on her right to exist in her body without being shamed, stigmatized, bullied or oppressed because of how she looks.

I don’t want to ban models of any size, I want to see models (and actresses, and dancers, and singers) of every size.

Comment Moderation Reminder:  Any comments suggesting that we can judge someone’s health or habits by their size, or that someone at a certain weight couldn’t possibly be healthy etc. will be deleted. Any negative body talk will be deleted. I don’t allow that kind of discussion about fat people, and I’ll not allow it about thin people. I have no interest in doing to others exactly what I’m asking them not to do to me or allowing this forum to be used for that purpose.

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43 thoughts on “Banning Anorexic Models

  1. Love this response! EDs are serious, they have multiple symptoms, and you CANNOT eyeball-diagnose somebody as having one, whether it’s “she looks ano” just because she’s skinny or “she must binge-eat” just because she’s fat. Eliminating very thin models based on the flawed, debunked, but harder-to-get-rid-of-than-a-bad-head-cold BMI system solves nothing, and in fact makes the problem of a lack of body diversity in the fashion and entertainment industries worse by excluding more body types.

    We need more diversity, not less – we need skinny and fat models and everything in between so the maximum amount of potential customers can see how a certain outfit would look on them.

  2. I want to thank you for this. I think that there is this common misconception that when we stand up against fat shaming, we’d be the first to jump on the thin shaming bandwagon. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen someone make a comment along those lines, and it makes me want to scream.

    When I say I’m for size or body acceptance, I mean ALL bodies. Fat, thin, normal. Whatever. All of them. Yes, I may speak up against fat shaming more often, but that is because a. I can personally relate to it (I’ve never once been thin shamed) and b. despite these inane laws, thin bodies are still celebrated over fat ones, and few people are talking about the costs to society of being too thin. I’ve yet to hear anyone say that being too thin is akin to terrorism.

    Being too thin is “linked,” much like obesity is “linked,” to various ailments, but it doesn’t even have a word. If you’re below the normal BMI, you may be presumed to have an ED – and this is completely unfair, as just as is the case when you’re over it, there are a multitude of reasons for body sizes to be what they are. But there’s no corollary to “obesity” for the opposite end of the spectrum. Which is probably part of why people jump to use the word “anorexic,” even though this is not something we can know just from looking at someone’s body size, and even though plenty of people who meet the DSM criteria for anorexia probably wouldn’t “look” anorexic to us (I know this firsthand, as I was hospitalized for my ED as a teen and most of the anorexic girls in there “looked” like the picture of health, even though they were starving themselves to a point of very serious illness).

    Now, I am not suggesting we NEED a word for this, just for the record. I’m simply pointing out that, despite these countries enacting laws that (much like all the anti-obesity crap) they may feel are well intended, being “too” thin is still not looked at the same way as being fat. And much like fat shaming is rarely ever actually about “concern” for one’s health, thin shaming is rarely actually about “oh, but her health.” But here is where it differs from fat shaming. Many of the people thin shaming are jealous and secretly long to be thin. How many of the people fat shaming do you think WANT to be fat? When I was younger, and still actively consumed by dieting and trying to be thin, I (sadly and not proudly) often engaged in thin shaming (the “real women have curves” sort of thing). If some fairy godmother could’ve waved her wand and made me look like that model, I’d have jumped all over that. I’m not saying this is universally true, because of course it’s not. But SOME thin shaming – such as the “real women have curves” crap – is absolutely born out of being alienated and feeling less than in the body you have.

    None of this makes (thin) body shaming even slightly okay. But it helps us to better understand why it sometimes happens, and also demonstrates how our societally idealized types of beauty have become a dividing force.

      1. Yes, you are correct. And when I use “normal,” in this context, I am referring to “normal” via the BMI (and typically both specify that and use quotes), but I typed this too early and failed to do that. Thank you for bringing it up because it’s not at all how I mean that, and certainly not the perception I want to give!

    1. Regarding thin shaming being a cover for envy, and fat shaming NOT being a cover for envy, I am working on a novel, in which a character has (for magical reasons) a super-fast metabolism, and no matter how much she eats, she can never be fat. She LOOKS anorexic, because her body consumes food so darned fast. However, as a known magician, no one thinks she’s anorexic, because all magicians suffer from the same phenomenon, as their magic is powered by their bodies’ energy, and they have to constantly refuel. In this world, magicians simply ARE thin. She is stigmatized and “othered,” not because she is thought to be anorexic, but because she is a known magician, and if she could be fat, she could hide that magic, and blend in a bit better. And she is envious of fat women, because they have some things she simply cannot have, including anonymity, the ability to gain people’s trust, and the ability to live in town without being driven out because “We don’t want any evil magicians HERE!”

      Of course, a few countries over, magicians do NOT have the bad name that they have in her country, and people are proud of their magical heritage and abilities, so there are probably a few people who foolishly starve themselves to look more magical, when they can’t even light a candle, and it will always come out. Fat people can’t pretend to be magicians, at all. However, they can wield a lot of powerful magical objects, and fool people into thinking they’re powerless, when they’re not, so long as they have the proper tools.

      I may need to experiment with a bit of fat-shaming, from her perspective, until she realizes that she’s really just covering her own envy, admits to the envy, and stops the body-shaming, and starts complimenting fat women on their lovely bodies that she wishes she could enjoy.

      Thanks for pointing out the hidden envy, because I had not even considered it, at all, and yet I had experimented with her desire to become fat, and it just didn’t really work. I could “tell,” but couldn’t really “show.” Then, I read your comment, and had a lightbulb moment. THANKS!

      And of course, when she comes to her senses, that bad behavior of shaming can disappear.

      Usually, I just write to tell a story, but if I can work in a “teachable moment,” or two, that’s a big bonus!

      By the way, I read that you meant to use “normal” as per BMI labels, and I didn’t take it to mean that I (and people like me) are abnormal. I’m not offended, yet I see how others might be.

      For future reference, I find that using the term “in between” works, regardless of whether I use quotes or BMI labels, disclaimers, or anything. And when you consider that it’s a spectrum, in between covers everything except the extremes, so you’ve covered pretty all your bases with it. It’s just easier, for me, to use in-between as my go-to term for anything other than fat/thin. “Average” is problematic, as in America, at least, the average woman is pushing plus size. Same for “mean,” and “the norm,” which may be good mathematically speaking, but linguistically open a whole can of worms. Someone will take issue, and then you have to defend your word choice, and I’m too lazy to use them. I go straight to the inarguable term.

      Thanks again for the psychological insight. BTW – I checked your blog, and your Second Life sim is GORGEOUS!

  3. Of everything in this post, I think the saddest thing is that you had to warn people not to disparage the thin over their body size. It seems like such a simple calculus: why would I want to “ban”, mock, or criticize someone over their body size (which, let’s face it, is exactly what fat-shaming and the “war on obesity” aim to do) if I don’t want them to do it to me?

    It’s not skinny people’s fault that fat-shaming exists, any more than Tess Munster is killing people with her body positivity. (Sorry. I almost went into a rage blackout when I saw the hit piece “The Doctors” did on her and it’s still bothering me.) So why should we want to be angry at them?

    Also, as far as criminalizing ANY ads goes — especially over who appears in them — First Amendment. Which I know France doesn’t have, but apparently they need it.

    1. I think people who are just starting on their body-acceptance journey haven’t quite gotten that point, yet. There’s a stage where one finally stops beating oneself up for being fat, and yet, one is still operating on jealousy and envy of thin people, and sometimes that does come out as thin-shaming.

      I’m glad Ragen reminds us that body-positivity is for ALL bodies, and that we don’t have to envy the thin to be happy in our fat bodies. Such reminders help to maintain this blog as a safe space, especially because those readers who have been both thin and fat in their lives, and experienced both thin and fat shaming may very well be triggered by such comments.

  4. Yes please to more visible and celebrated body diversity! It’s perfectly possible to totally rock clothes, if that’s your jam, no matter where you fall on the bell curve of human weight. Fat fashion is all over Tumblr (queer fat fashion, too!) — time for the mainstream to catch up…!

    I always like to cite the hard numbers about the (lack of) relationship between low BMI and presence of a restrictive eating disorder; per Your Eatopia, “2/3 of those with active restrictive eating disorders are not clinically underweight, nor have they ever been.” That means so many people, like me, who never got the treatment they needed because they didn’t “look” like they had an eating disorder.

    It’s been a long road, recovering all on my own. I don’t think I’m completely in remission yet. But I’m sick of all the bullshit, and my goal is to be unapologetically fat and happy. I’m ready to demand better. Thank you for your leadership and inspiration, Ragen. You don’t know how much you’ve helped.

    1. Same here, I have never looked like I had an ED, but I took a free online test after I started to accept myself, and I supplied the answers that I believed in before (as well as my parents) and it said “you should seek psychiatric care immediately”.

  5. Eating disorders and wildly disordered eating are rampant among fashion models because the standard is so unrealistic… but that doesn’t prove that any individual ultra-thin model is suffering from anorexia.

    But if the requirements for ultra-thinness are relaxed and models can be whatever size they happen to be, well then, the dangerous attempts to live on air, cocaine, and diuretics that currently make modeling such an unhealthy profession would become a lot less common. No body should be outlawed for its size. What we need is to accept more sizes, not the same number but one tick larger than before.

    We need to begin to foster an attitude in design school that celebrates the human body as part of the design of the clothes rather than a problem to be solved so clothes will look as much as possible like they’re draped on a moving clothes hanger. After all, anyone who has seen even one ‘real woman’ challenge on Project Runway knows that nothing scares the baby designers like a woman who wears a size larger than a four. They scream and pout and throw things because they’re being forced to make something that has to go on someone who isn’t a professional model. And then the lucky designer who got the thinnest model usually wins.

    But clothing is meant to be three-dimensional and to go on a living, breathing person, and people come in all sorts of sizes.

    I want to see tall models and short ones, fat ones and thin ones, models in wheelchairs and sporting prosthetic limbs. In short, I’d like to see models that reflect the range and variety of human bodies and experiences.

    Then it wouldn’t be so stigmatizing for designers to choose to focus on larger bodies and we would get more clothing options. Everybody would get more chances to play with their closets.

    And that would be something worth celebrating.

  6. Bodies really do naturally come in many, many sizes and shapes. This is particularly true in multi-ethnic societies (like ours.)

    And multi-ethnic families like mine… One reason I know the variety of shapes and sizes is that my family has them. If you take after one branch of the family, you’re significantly taller than average, have light bones, narrow shoulders and hips, with long arms and legs. And you are thin as a rail… to the point where school nurses have been concerned about having enough food, to the point where one person couldn’t get a job as a police officer because he was too thin (and whatever he did could not gain enough weight for them!) None of these people eat too little – in fact, most eat quite a lot!

    If you take after the other side of the family, you’re average or slightly above average height (no one in my family does petite) with heavy bones, significantly broader than average shoulders and (for the women) hips. Some had classic triangle torsos or hourglass figures when young – but were hassled about weight anyhow… (if your shoulders and hips are broader than average, your weight runs higher… and no one notices the thin waist.) Others always put weight on easily. All started gaining as they grew older. (And how much of this is a result of constant dieting…)

    Several times we’ve had a couple of each in the same household, eating the same food, running around just as much… The one isn’t undereating any more than the other is overeating… (sometimes the thin one is eating more…) And body size is not an indicator of health in any of us… heart disease also runs in the family, and has hit both body types – nothing else has ever been correlated by anyone to size. (Being male seems unhealthy, in my family – our women live much longer – but no one suggests we not do that.)

    I’ve sold petite clothes to Size Twos who couldn’t get anything small enough – you can see it’s the bone structure. If I were anorexic, I’d still be a 14 – it’s the bone structure. Neither of us is doing anything wrong…

  7. I remember reading that some high end fashion designers believe their clothes look best on the rack with no one wearing them. That’s a big part of why they go for very thin models. The point of fashion should be to make the person wearing the clothes look good, not to make clothes that look best with no people in them.

    1. Such designers should just call their designs “art,” and have an exhibition of cloth artistically cut, sewn, and draped on hangars. At least be honest about it.

      “Clothes” are meant to be worn on bodies. Make as much “art” as you want, but don’t call it “clothing,” if it was not meant to CLOTHE BODIES.

  8. I remember completely the day I realized that it wasn’t my body that didn’t fit clothes, it was that clothes didn’t fit my body. What a day!

  9. The biggest revelation of my life was when BBW Magazine came out in the early 1980s. It had never before occurred to me that larger women could dress and adorn themselves to look good. In some sense I thought it wasn’t “allowed” (by the fashion police?). Ever since, when I look at the people around me I can see the beauty in them where before I would have had a lot of negative thoughts — and I try to do the same for myself.

  10. Please correct the name of France’s Minister of Health. It’s Marisol Touraine. Olivier Véran (BTW, Olivier is always a man’s name) is the French MP (member of parliament) who is proposing changes to the legislation that would “prohibit modelling agencies from using fashion models when they are diagnosed as malnourished and ban websites defending anorexia.” (quote from the International Business Times)

    We may now return to regular programming.

    1. Wow. Makes me wonder what, if any, version of HIPAA France has. Seems like agencies ought to be legally prohibited from asking if their models have certain health issues.

      1. I’m all for supporting the treatment of anorexics and helping them get whatever they need to get well. But banning them from working, due to illness? That is NOT ON!

        First they ban anorexics and others with eating disorders, because of “health,” and then who will they ban next? Someone with Lupus, or cancer or degenerative bone disease?

        No, Ragen is right. The solution is not to ban unhealthy models, but to embrace more variety. This will cut down on the number of unhealthy, anorexic models, because they won’t NEED to starve themselves down to the size the designers will suffer to wear their “art.” If the models can model at their natural size, they won’t even try any unhealthy “lifestyle choices” to force their bodies into another size. The number of anorexics in modeling, and in the world at large, will dwindle with no ban required.

        Good health is certainly something to encourage, but you don’t do that by banning people with real health problems. You do that by helping them get healthy when they can, and accommodating them when they can’t. Because even if they have an incurable disease, lowering their general stress levels (by cutting out the shame, stigma, and outright abuse they suffer because they are not perfect) will actually lead to a general increase in health and quality of life, and thus a general increase in productivity.

        Happy people look better, too. Happiness shines through, no matter what size, shape, color, etc. you are and happy people will make the clothes look better, too.

    2. Wow, I totally and utterly screwed that up. In my research I found both names and then confused them and their titles, thanks so much for letting me know!


  11. Thank you for writing this. Banning body sizes is like putting a bandaid on your pinky when you have a sucking chest wound – wrong treatment, wrong ailment. And if they can ban very-thin bodies, then there is nothing to stop them in the future from banning fat bodies when they decide it’s appropriate. As usual the powers that be have it all wrong – as Ragen says the problem is not seeing too many “too thin” bodies in media, it’s that we’re not allowed to see any other types of bodies in media. So now instead of just fat people being stigmatized, very thin people can be stigmatized too (and I know this already happens). Big sarcastic Yay.

  12. Love this post! First, because just like BMI is bullshit for determining the health of the fatties, it (and other arbitrary measurements) are just as useless to determine the health of the thin people.

    Simply being thin does not mean that a person eats too little, just like being fat doesn’t mean that a person eats too much. It’s nothing but more body shaming, aimed at the other end of the scale.

    I am also happy to see that you addressed the fact that this doesn’t help anyone, it just leaves girls/women who are “too thin” out of a job. Instead of addressing the issue that some of these girls MAY have an eating disorder and need real help, they are simply banned. WTF? How does that help?

  13. Who decided clothes look better on thin people? Why does everyone follow that?

    I can’t remember where I saw it, but a young woman did some modelling in her early teens, then puberty hit, her hips got bigger and she wasn’t wanted as a model anymore.

    She struggled with self-esteem and eating for a bit before she realized her hips were normal, and no amount of dieting would change the structure of her hip-bones. Thank goodness she got to that point.

    It has taken me years to realize that my body isn’t at fault, the clothes are. As it is, I still resent having a big tummy and narrow hips because pants and skirts never look quite right.

    Yes we need more size diversity. And age diversity. And color diversity. And all the other diversities we don’t have.

    What we don’t need is an even smaller pool of what is considered acceptable.

    1. Isstrout, it’s not that “clothes look better on thin people.” It’s that the current gaggle of fashion designers are designing clothes that look best on hangars, and they will suffer thin people to wear them, but they really aren’t designed to look good on PEOPLE. They are designed to look good on sticks. Literally. Even the thinnest model will still have curves, because human bodies are not two-dimensional.

      So, the designers who design their clothes for hangars say that “clothes look better on thin people,” because they refuse to acknowledge their own deficiencies in design. They refuse to acknowledge that they are not designing for actual human beings, and no human being could actually satisfy their artistic demands.

      Those designers who DO design clothes for people to wear, who incorporate darts and gathers and curved seams, and all those somewhat-more-labor-intensive tailoring tricks, don’t say that “clothes look better on thin people.” They say, “This outfit suits this type of body best,” because it does. And they are fully capable of designing “fatshion,” as well as thin and in-between fashion, because what flows well on a thin body may bunch up on a fat one, and what works on a fat body may look droopy and weird on a thin one.

      Separate design lines for different body types does make sense. One design simply won’t work across the board. But a good designer CAN design for a variety of body types. And a really good designer ought to DEMAND the opportunity to show off his skills by having a variety of sizes to model his stuff.

      Pants and skirts can look right on you, if they are designed for your particular size and shape. If you have the resources, you can get them made just for you. If you don’t have the resources, you’re up a creek, until the fashion industry realizes that clothes were meant to be worn, not draped on a hangar.

  14. I’m not particularly interested in fashion, but what I’ve learned from my limited viewing is that fashion models in pictures are often pegged or pinned into the clothes to make it look good

    For example they send in clothes that are a couple of sized larger than the models and give them stuff to pin or clip it at the side you don’t see, so that they can have the fabric look the best in each shot. If they wore the item in their size it would look nothing like the pictures (oh and they prefer to use model of a set size range ’cause then they only have to send over a small sample of jeans for shoots instead of actually sending out a sample that fits and letting us see how the fit really looks.

    I have a friend who is about the same height as me but has a thin build, she can’t find clothes to fit her properly either (but she can get cheap clothes in a larger size and have them taken in). This leads me to the conclusion that a large number of fashion designers are crap at the job and are only good at designing in the abstract or for custom fitted pieces – which is fine for them, but I’d like to see them actually compete in that market, not in an industry that says if it doesn’t fit you then your body is wrong.

    Would be nice if they could train designers to actually look at bodies and design for general shapes at very least, rather than designing clothes for a body that seem to be most prevalent in adolescent males.

  15. I need a new wardrobe for work, and instead of shopping the ridiculously limited options available, I have taken up sewing my own clothes. You see, my bust is one size, my waist is another, and my hips yet a third, so for anything to fit properly, I have to adjust it, anyway. This way, I can sew clothes FOR ME, and they will look good.

    The thing is, I need to get patterns in the right sizes for me, and that is a bit difficult. The really posh designers (Vogue, for instance), simply doesn’t release patterns in sizes large enough to fit my smallest measurement, let alone all of them.

    There are lines that design for larger women, and that’s great! But if I want “high fashion,” I have to learn to make my own patterns, and then I could copy something already out there for thinner women.

    Now, fat people aren’t merely larger. We have different shapes, and clothes will hang differently on us. We require more darts and other forms of shaping. Thin, flatter, more angular people can wear clothes that are, frankly, easier to make, and THAT is why the designers focus so much on them. They want to get the most impact for the least amount of work.

    What we need are artistic and imaginative clothing designers with the gumption to put in the extra work and the extra shaping for larger sizes, and make clothes that look really good on bigger bodies. And please, release those patterns to the public. I’ll sink good money into patterns, good cloth, and notions galore, but I NEED the patterns, first.

    Time was, people sewed their own clothes in order to save money. Nowadays, though, it’s cheaper to buy the yucky clothes on sale at the discount stores. You sew your own clothes in order to really LOOK good.

    As for the models/anorexia thing – I have known several women who were “too thin,” but not anorexic. People would confront them about their “anorexia,” despite the fact that they ate a quart of ice cream every day, and did not purge it, either. They simply had extremely fast metabolisms. That’s why judging “health” by BMI is ridiculous. All it tells you is the person’s size. I completely agree with Ragen on this one – have a variety of models in lots of sizes, and lots of shapes within those sizes, and get the clothes designers to design clothes to fit and flatter the variety of sizes. They may say, “This line focus on X size/shape, while my second line focuses on Y size/shape, and next season I’ll be focusing on Z size/shape,” and that would be totally awesome! Or get a collective together, with various designers, who each specialize in a size and/or shape, so that every size and shape gets something designed for it, and every body who wants to buy clothes from that collective has some great options.

    If everyone looks good in fashion, people will stop trying to force their bodies to change into the one “acceptable” size and shape, and learn, instead, to accept their bodies as already acceptable.

    We need variety in our models, for the sake of ALL people, thin, fat, and in between.

  16. I hope your book turns out the way you want it, and you can work that ‘teachable moment in’. 🙂

    For what it’s worth, one of my favorite SF series features a woman who can eat what she wants and stay thin. Turns out she is genetically engineered to be stronger and faster than most folks, but it isn’t obvious to anyone. She works out regularly and trains in martial arts so they think that’s the reason. The downside or her metabolism is that she has to eat plenty of food or she will literally starve. In fact, in one book, she is taken prisoner by the enemy and she ends up starving because they don’t know about her metabolism and feed her standard rations.

    This is why I love fantasy and sf, you can change up the situation and make people see it in a different light.

    1. Yeah, changing the perspective is a good way to show some real truths. People will accept something in fiction that they won’t accept in real life, even though there are people with other-than-average metabolisms in real life. Mine is an extreme (because of magic), but it seems that others have had similar ideas. Possibly because it’s an idea well worth exploring. Bodies are different! Oh, my!

      Thanks, Isstrout!

      And I have to move away from this post now. It really hit a nerve with me (as if you can’t tell from my many posts). Also, I’m on my pain pills, and my filter has gone away to Scotland, along with the pain. I hope they bring me back a lovely salmon for dinner.

      Later, y’all!

  17. I’ve heard modeling talent scouts talk about their intense sense of excitement when they find a woman with the preferred look—because it’s very rare. One guy said he estimated that body type to be one in ten thousand, and of course they are not all interested in modeling (or have the face or emotional constitution to handle the business).

    Now, I in no way mean to denigrate women who have that build, but why are virtually 100% of the women (at least 90%) we see advertising fashion only representative of 1/10,000 of the body types on the planet?

    The rest of us cannot attain that body type even with extensive plastic surgery, let alone “eating less and moving more,” and that goes both ways—the high-fashion model couldn’t attain my hips or broad build even if she wanted to.

    Wouldn’t it be nice to see clothes that look good on a variety of people ON a variety of people?

    Speaking only for myself, I’ve never understood the glamor of the fashion industry or of being a model, so the whole glam thing seems silly and a bit tawdry to me. I’d like to envision what a particular item would look like on me, so how it looks on Kate Moss is interesting only academically, if at all.

  18. Hmmm, I’m two ways about this and really had to think, but still am not sure what my opinion is.
    Of course I am all with you – BMI doesn’t tell anything about health, and the ideal situation would be to have models of all sizes and shapes, from very thin to very fat and everything in between, and nobody should be preferred because of a special size.

    And I hope that will happen some day, but it sure won’t happen in the next two or three years. And while things are how they are, there are many girls starving themselves to try to get into modeling, and my heart bleeds for them. Of course there may be women who naturally have the size the designers want, but even if I know some naturally thin people, I’ve never met a naturally model-sized woman, but several starving themselves for the dream of getting into modeling (which, for all of them, never happend).

    So, ruling that models must have at least a certain BMI is certainly not a really good solution, but it is at least something you can put into a law, and if it helps girls to not starve themselves to death, isn’t that at least something? (I think of the girls who want to model here, not of all the women looking at them, because of course with a law like this there still wouldn’t be models of all sizes and women would still be encouraged to try to be thin, only a tiny little less thin)

    Or is there a better law to make designers use models of all sizes? Problematic also, because then one would have to put labels on the models, too — x% of the models must be fat, x% in between, but where do those categories begin?

    Or does the underpants rule apply here – we just have to work for a world where people of all sizes are normal in every job, including modeling, and until that happens it is the right of every girl to starve herself ill for trying to get into modeling? Because health is not an obligation?

    I really have problems doing that, while of course on the other hand I sure don’t want people to intervene with fat people for “health” reasons. But it isn’t quite the same for me, because, as you so often cite here, Ragen, one can scientifically prove that long term weight loss just doesn’t work for most people, and also doesn’t improve health the way life style changes can. On the other hand, not starving oneself is possible for everyone (if you don’t already have an eating disorder, of course), and to sufficiently feed your body really does help to stay healthy.

    Well, perhaps I just have to accept that health is not an obligation and that people are allowed to starve themselves? *sigh* my heart bleeds, especially because these girls are sooo young and I think they often can’t imagine what that will do to the rest of their lives. Germany’s Next Top Model is on TV again at the moment here, and I just hate hate hate that show for all it does to young teens.

    1. I think it’s exactly what you said in the last paragraph — we have to accept that health is not an obligation for others just as we want others to accept when looking at us.

      I don’t believe that any government action is a good idea on this subject. If you open the door for the government to invade our medical records and command behavior based on what they find, it’s a principle that works both ways. I’d say they’d start in on fat people just as soon as they were done with skinny people, but honestly, I think it would be the other way around.

      Can vs. should, and all that.

      1. *sigh* I think I have such a hard time accepting that because it so often concerns mere children, almost all participants in the show, for example, are underage, and I find it really difficult to accept that children – 14 years old or so – are allowed to starve themselves ill only to participate in a show like that – for adults I can accept that better.
        But well, at least this blog always gives me something to think about …

        1. So, maybe instead of banning models who are “too thin,” based on BMI, we should ban the shows that encourage children to starve themselves to reach that level of thinness.

          Banning an actual activity is much better than banning a BMI, because it indicates the possibility of a behavior you don’t want (and can happen at ANY size, anyway), and is only a possibility, because there really are some people who are that size naturally, without starvation.

          Or, alternately, require that models of adult fashions be ACTUAL ADULTS, rather than undeveloped teens, whose careers will tank when they do develop hips and a bustline.

          As for requiring models of various sizes, well, affirmative action based on race was not the catastrophic disaster people foretold. Perhaps a bit of affirmative action in modeling would be a good thing?

          1. I would definitely back a government action to bann Germany’s Next Top Model – and The Biggest Loser AND The Biggest Loser Teens (I don’t know if that finally aired in the US as well, but in Germany it’s a reality that “coaches” yell at fat teenagers to “save their lives”, have the weigh-in every week for a gaping audience to snark about etc.). That would really help me (and I guess others as well) with my anger-management!

            On the other hand, I would also like to have a STFU Sign for coaches of The Voice every time they say something like “aw ich should have buzzerd for you” once they discover that the girl, who was appareantly not a good enough singer to be on their team, is actually “hot”. But I digress (and I’m sure Ragan has a post about it somewhere already:-).

            1. Waitwaitwait! Biggest Loser for TEENS?!

              Are these people out to destroy the world?! I can’t think of a worse idea!

              I’m so outraged, I’m just shaking.

              TEENS! As if they don’t have it hard enough, already! As if they’re not already insecure enough, already! And they’re minors! That’s child abuse! It’s one thing to sucker in some hopeful adults, but to force children to participate in this kind of abusive and dangerous show, it’s absolutely horrifying!

              What were they thinking? We can’t do the “Hunger Games,” so we’ll do the next best thing?

              1. As horrific as Biggest Loser Teen is (and dear heavens to Murgatroyd, it’s horrific!) I can actually think of something worse.

                I just don’t much feel like saying what it is for fear someone all actually try to make a Biggest Loser Toddler edition.


                1. (((Twistie))) The scariest thing about that idea is that the “I Hate My Thighs” baby onesies and Similac’s reduced-calorie baby formula suggests there would, in fact, be an audience for such a show.

  19. Thank you. I couldn’t get past my outrage to say anything even remotely coherent. I knew you’d get to the issue at hand succinctly as usual.

  20. I think this article is great as are your other ones. I can’t help thinking though that their law is helping many people. I know it doesn’t help the whole body shaming thing as many people are thin and perfectly healthy although I struggle to believe a very thin person is usually healthy and probably is suffering from an eating disorder. I think the hard part for me is that I did have anorexia in my early twenties and I wouldn’t wish it upon another soul, ever! Yes, my reasons for it were not body image although it became seductively nice being thin, but still, I wouldn’t want to wish it upon anyone as it was one of the most horrific things I’ve ever been through. So, I personally think it’s a good law. It may save many lives because many models are put under too much pressure to keep their careers going.

    Yes, health isn’t an obligation, but protecting people is. As fellow human beings we have a basic obligation to help out or protect those more vulnerable than ourselves. Something in the modelling industry needs to change and if this law helps in the meantime, let it be, until something better comes up.

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