There 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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