When it comes to the fashion industry, most people think of the stick-thin standard of beauty the majority of models strive to achieve. This idealized image has affected not only the multimillion-dollar fashion industry, but also the general public, which views these images on a day-to-day basis.
“In the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, or an eating disorder not otherwise specified,” according to the National Eating Disorders website.
In order to change the mindset that skinny is better, something needs to be done, and tackling the issue of anorexia on the world’s most popular runways is one way to try and do it.
Tuesday, April 14, the French National Assembly approved a draft law that would ban modeling agencies from allowing people with a body mass index under 18 to earn money as a model. France is the latest in a succession of countries, including Spain and Israel, taking measures to quash this stark standard of beauty that often coincides with anorexia. Maintaining a low BMI, however, does not equate to having an eating disorder.
According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion: “Many people— especially women — are concerned about body weight, even when their weight is normal. Excessive concern about weight may cause or lead to such unhealthy behaviors as excessive exercise, self-induced vomiting and the abuse of laxatives or other medications.”
Anorexia has to do with one’s mental health just as much as it does with physical health. How can these modeling agencies be sure of the fact that their models do not have an eating disorder without sufficient proof of their mental well-being?
“The correlation between the BMI number and body fatness is fairly strong; however, the correlation varies by sex, race and age,” reported the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “It is also important to remember that BMI is only one factor related to risk for disease.”
Instead of refusing to employ super-skinny models because they might be unhealthy, how about we stop allowing brands to Photoshop everybody to oblivion?
Open the first magazine you find and unrealistic bodies without fat, wrinkles, blemishes or cellulite will undoubtedly be littering the pages. The models are not the problem; it’s the people who fabricate the story that being skinny is better than being healthy.
The models are affected by these absurd standards, not the other way around. If we stop making skinny the ideal, maybe fewer people would harm their bodies in an attempt to be beautiful by society’s standards.
The fashion industry needs a facelift with regard to the image of beauty that it sells, but not by shaming those who are slender. As a naturally skinny woman, I have always had a BMI on the cusp of 18 despite having a Mexican mother who feeds me any chance she gets. It is offensive when people who have no medical authority tell me I need to eat, and it is offensive to assume that naturally thin women are automatically unhealthy.
In order to move forward, fashion needs to be more inclusive, as opposed to its current exclusivity. Rather than kicking out skinny models, agencies need to widen the pool of people they represent. Plus-sized models should not be known as plus-sized — they should simply be models.
The men and women on runways should vary in shape and size, just like all other people do. Perhaps then the general public would be affirmed by what it sees in high fashion, and fewer people would feel compelled to harm their bodies in order to look like a person whose image has been manipulated in an advertisement.