The Israeli Knesset became the latest legislative body to ban skinny models. The new law prohibits both Israeli and foreign ads with “underweight” models and requires disclosure of when pictures have been manipulated to make the model look thinner.
I have been a critic of these laws. I have significant reservations about both the constitutionality (in the US) and practicality (anywhere) of such laws. Such restrictions on the right of models and photographers limits free expression and artistic freedom in my view. Even when viewed as merely commercial speech, there remain legitimate speech concerns.
I understand that five percent of young Israelis have been found to have eating disorders. However, the best way to address this problem is not to limit the freedom of others but to educate young people, particularly young girls. Dr. Rachel Adatto, a legislator and doctor, says that with the law, such skinny models “can no longer serve as role models for innocent youths who adopt and copy the illusion of thinness.” That seems hopeful thinking unless they are going to force stars, celebrities, and others to eat. Notably, magazine covers and other images are likely to continue to advance the “never too thin” view of beauty. We are unlikely to embrace Rubenesque values by act of legislation. The perception of beauty as thin is the result of a host of cultural norms.
The law defines underweight with the use of the Body Mass Index (BMI) standard, a ratio of weight compared to height. Anyone with a ratio under 18.5 is considered underweight and thus barred under the law as a model. The message is “eat or starve” as a model in Israel.
I view such laws as a matter of personal freedom for photographers, models, and media. For that reason, I sympathize with the motives but have to disagree with the means.
Source: Times of Israel as first seen on Reddit.