I have previously criticized the effort to criminalize or sanction companies for using models who are deemed too thin in an effort to change the expectations for young girls. There is no evidence that these efforts have a real impact on the social preference for thin body types, but officials continue to police the body shapes and weight of models. That was the case this week with the action against Nasty Gal by the U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for using models deemed “unhealthily underweight” women in a 30-second ad.
The ASA declared “While the female model in the ads generally appeared to be in proportion, there were specific scenes which, because of her poses, drew attention to her slimness placed focus on her chest where her rib cage was visible and appeared prominent.”
After 22 complaints, the ASA banned the ad as “irresponsible”. However, Nasty Gal has reported that the model has health body mass index at 5 feet 8 inches and 134 pounds. Indeed, inputting those dimensions into the NIH calculator, it comes out “normal.”
The purpose of ASA regulations is laudable. Young girls experience tremendous pressure to be thin in our culture, which can result in eating disorders and psychological pressures. However, I have serious concerns about the regulation of a matter of creative expression. Paintings like Pablo Picasso’s Girl in a Chemise featured thin models as did medieval pieces like Lucas Cranach the Elder’s work above. Few painters have returned to a Rubens fascination with more full bodied women. It is also highly doubtful that policing model weight will really end the obsession with being thin for young girls in my view.
What do you think?