The cool thing about being a woman—one of the many cool things about being a woman, I should say—is that our beauty doesn’t come wrapped up in just one kind of package. We’re a powerful assortment of delectable differences: thick and shapely, athletic and muscular, tall and long-legged. Still, the fashion industry has traditionally celebrated rail thinness as the only desirable body shape. And it’s affected generations of teenage girls. (Twiggy, unfortunately, wasn’t a sensation for naught.) Continual epic fail.
Maybe we should all ship our daughters for study abroad in Israel for a semester or two. Not because of the culture or the history or the lox (though those are all certainly reason enough), but because they seem to be light years ahead of us over there in the effort to broaden perceptions of women’s beauty.
In March, at the urging of a fashion photographer who watched one of his model friends die a slow death from bulimia, Israeli leaders passed a new law that made having some meat on your bones a mandatory part of being in front of the camera. Starting January 1, 2013, male and female models in that country will have to have a BMI of no less than 18.5—a standard used by the World Health Organization—or a note from their doctor confirming that said model is not underweight before he or she can be hired for a gig.
That means a 6’ tall model, for example, must weigh no less than 136.5 pounds. None of those skin-and-bones, pouty-mouthed babes can mess with the minds of women—especially young girls—over there. Lawmakers have seen to that. (Even though, let’s be honest, that’s still a far cry from the proportions of average gals who are, after all, the consumers being targeted by the advertising in the first place.)
Also ixnayed: the flagrant overuse of Photoshop or other creative software-ing to magically make already thin models look even thinner, to the point of jutting hip bones and emaciated faces. That’s so, like, 2011.
We can promote healthy body images and institute programming to make teenage girls (and, in some cases, boys too) embrace and love their bodies as they are, in all of their natural, unaltered perfection. But society is talking out both sides of its mouth if it keeps allowing kids to be slapped in the face with these impossible standards of what beauty is “supposed” to look like. Sure, Jasmine or Johnny, you’re great just like you are—but secretly, a 22-inch waist or crazy washboard abs are what you should be shooting for.
This will be one fashion industry trend that doesn’t spread like wildfire, I’m pretty sure. But here’s to being optimistic.
Do you think teenage girls are affected by the images in advertising or are there bigger influences at play?
Image via Elmo H. Love/Flickr