New York legislators pass “skinny models” bill

25th June 2007

New York legislators pass “skinny models” bill

It seems as if the pressure to ban the current breed of size-double zero supermodels is finally catching on in America. Last Thursday, New York legislators passed the “skinny models” bill, which will bring health and industry experts to the table to create standards and guidelines for underage performers and models to prevent eating disorders.

This advisory board’s suggestions on issues like employment restrictions, weight or BMI requirements and medical screenings will be passed onto the Commissioner of Labor. Bronx Assemblyman Jose Rivera, chair of the Assembly Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition, said he wrote the legislation after the deaths of two South American models from eating disorders. Read his press release here.

New York’s legislation comes on the heels of guidelines implemented by other fashion meccas, Madrid and Milan, to bar unhealthy, skeletal models from the runway. The Anglo-Dutch consumer group Unilever just recently announced its decision not to use models with a BMI of less than 18.5. Read our discussion of these issues here.

The Council on Fashion Designers of America, currently headed by wrap-dress queen Diane von Furstenberg, has their own guidelines for models and says it would like legislators stay out of industry affairs. Rivera said the fashion industry is not capable of policing itself.

“The President of the Council of Fashion Designers was quoted as saying that the government would be involved in regulating models size ‘over my dead body,’” Rivera said. “We don’t want anymore dead bodies, that’s the point of my legislation.”

Also under consideration by New York’s legislature is Res. 0692-2007, which calls upon sponsors of New York Fashion Week to adopt a healthy models education campaign and ban models with a BMI of less than 18.5 from strutting the runway.

According to the NY Legislature website, the bill was introduced in February 2007 and referred to the council’s Committee of Health. We’ll continue tracking this bill and report on its progress.

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This entry was posted on Monday, June 25th, 2007 at 3:51 pm and is filed under Body Image, Eating Disorders, Health, Nutrition & Fitness, Pop Culture. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

There are currently 12 responses to “New York legislators pass “skinny models” bill”

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  1. 1 On June 25th, 2007, The Rotund said:

    Ideally, there wouldn’t be any need for skinny model bans. And I am all for government staying out of our personal lives as much as possible. But I have to agree with Rivera that the fashion industry just doesn’t seem capable – scratch that – MOTIVATED to police itself.

  2. 2 On June 25th, 2007, withotuscene said:

    I just really disagree with this type of legislature or any policy based on “unhealthy” BMI. You can’t tell if someone is unhealthy by looking at them. While I do think there are models who starve themselves to fit the mold, there are some who I’m sure fit the mold on genetics alone. Shunning people because their body size is like saying, “You aren’t made right, this is the new mold, and if you can’t change yourself to fit it, we don’t want you.” It is the SAME, I repeat, the SAME message we are sending people by only showing very skinny models: You aren’t made right, this IS what’s right, and you should change your body to fit that. It’s not about health at all because if it were they would be looking at people’s actual habits. It’s about image, and people are now directing their fear of anorexia and bulemia into an attack on ALL skinny people. That’s as wrong as attacking fat people in the name of health. It’s all based on the belief that you can tell what someone does by looking at them, and you just can’t. That’s an assumption that really must be disentangled.

    Even if this was actually about health and not just image, I disagree with the idea that we should base people’s jobs on health at all. Health does not determine worth or qualifications. How “well a person takes care of themselves” does not make them a good or bad person…nor does it make it anyone’s friggin business. This legislation is just as much about the war on our bodies as anything else. The “good intentions” it is tied to don’t mean crap in the end. Shifting the body ideal doesn’t do a damn thing…only body diversity will free us from all of this bullshit and body oppression. I wish I would have known about this a long time ago because I would have urged everyone I could from NY to protest it.

  3. 3 On June 25th, 2007, withotuscene said:

    Re: The Rotund

    It is because no corporation or business is motivated by anything other than the bottom line. They may care about how the image of their company affects their bottom line, and then they will work on their image. Until the demand for body diversity is strong enough to affect their bottom line, it will never happen. But people seem to still want a narrow body ideal…just now it’s less and less okay to be skinny alongside of being VERY not okay to be fat.

  4. 4 On June 25th, 2007, The Rotund said:

    Withoutscene – I think we are totally agreeing that narrowing the “acceptable” spectrum for bodies is a bad idea. And I DO oppose such bans. I just understand why they are attractive as band-aids for the situation, you know?

  5. 5 On June 25th, 2007, Rachel said:

    While I agree that such bans are aren’t effective bandaids – eating disorders are about so much more than Kate Moss-envy – we shouldn’t glorify eating disorders in the media either.

    Sure, a very, very small percentage of women might have BMIs which naturally fall below 18.5. All other women who sport these low BMIs are most assuredly anorectics. A BMI of less than 18.5 is symptomatic of the disease – low body weight such as someone with this BMI is actually written into the DSM criteria for a diagnosis of anorexia.

    The bill which did pass however, doesn’t touch upon BMI – only the employment of underage models and performers, which is entirely within the scope of legislators.

  6. 6 On June 26th, 2007, Shirley said:

    first, i am sure that the image you posted is a fake/airbrushed with photoshop or other photo editor software; gisele has never been that thin. i totally disagree with the decision announced by The Anglo-Dutch consumer group Unilever about not using models with a BMI of less than 18.5. Some people were born with extreme ectomorph physique that caused them having less than 18.5 BMI naturally and difficulties in gaining weight. So I dont think BMI is an accurate indicator of suspecting one of having eating disorders. as written on the april issue of vogue-in which she, as the head of CFDA, agreed to only use healthy models without any minimal BMI standard; DVF is taking the right decision

  7. 7 On June 26th, 2007, Rachel said:

    Chew on this: Let’s say that the majority of skeletal models out there are “naturally” thin. Let’s assume that they are in the extreme less than 1 percent of the population that requires little to no body fat to survive.

    How many people in the general public can say the same? Designers dress models in their clothes with the hopes of selling the image to the public, as consumers. As a result, many women feel pressured to conform to this impossibly unattainable ideal and try to starve themselves to meet a body size which simply isn’t natural for their bodies.

    But that’s assuming these overly thin women are naturally so, which I very highly doubt for the majority of them. We don’t glamorize cigarette smoking in the media (except in a few movies) and neither should we glamorize anorexia.

  8. 8 On June 26th, 2007, withotuscene said:

    No, but saying “No Thin People Allowed” isn’t solving the problem. Really, we’ll never know what weight people might be because most people, thin and fat, have dieted or starved themselves or used products to change their weight. The thin ideal is not a cause of this, it is a function of the fact that there is ONE ideal….which pressures people to change their bodies to fit it. If we merely shift the body ideal it won’t change the pressure on people to do unhealthy things to achieve it. It also won’t change the idea that you can control your body and your body weight, which is a huge part of what anorexics and bullemics are trying to do…control their body. The fact that they do so by starving themsevles because they can never be too thin is a product of this need to control and our cultural ideals.

    So what if we exclude “unhealthily thin” models? What if then the body ideal shifts to what junk scientists call “a normal body weight”? There will still be people starving themselves, binging, throwing up, amputating their stomachs, and doing harmful things to their body to “achieve” the ideal. The “symptoms” of extreme thinness that we see now will only be masked. People will still die of malnutrition, complications, straining their bodies and the effects on their body and internal organs. People will still be given poor medical care because of doctor’s preconcieved notions about their bodies. But no one will care because there is the “healthy” body wieght you are supposed to be at and you SHOULD BE OBLIGATED to be healthy, right?

    I’m not disagreeing that having very thin models and actresses and icons ONLY is bad…I’m just saying that stigmatizing them and excluding them isn’t going to fix the problems that cause all this in the first place. And further I don’t believe the means justify the end, whatever end that may be.

  9. 9 On August 22nd, 2007, sarah said:

    Skinny models bill???
    I forget the legislators have to pass a bill on thin models yet they can’t pass a bill on obese models? Ahhh,maybe because with obesity there is of course more financial gain with all the food and pharmaceutical products out there.

  10. 10 On August 22nd, 2007, withotuscene said:

    And the media doesn’t make billions in profit off of thin models? I’m not for the bill, but come on. If you are going to talk about profit, yes, they do exactly what is profitable for them. Healthism is rampant and to be seen as unhealthy or endorsing an unhealthy image is seen as bad or a negative reflection, thus parading around so-called “too thin” models could start costing them money. This is why they made the policy in Milan. The are going for an image change because they feel the new “healthy” image will bring them more profits. Plain and simple. It’s just that this time healthism and profits to be made off it are directed at the very thin.

  11. 11 On September 4th, 2008, annakat said:

    I’m so glad they are doing something. It is awful for young girls to try to imitate the thin models. This is not healthy for our young girls or even young women. Marilyn Monroe was not a skinny woman, that is the shape I wish the young women were trying to imitate. I think she was a size 12.

  12. 12 On April 14th, 2009, Britain’s Next Top Model: From anorexic ideal to openly anorexic » said:

    [...] Eating disorders are rife in the modeling world and yet shows like this – as well as the national fashion councils – typically sweep them under the collective rug. Eating disorders have been estimated to be the [...]

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