Friday, March 23, 2012

Bold Move in Israel: Weight Requirements for Models

AP Photo: Oded Balilty

As a follow up to the information I shared yesterday about organizations that strive to promote a healthier - and more realistic - image of women in the media, I stumbled across this story by the Associated Press in the Charlotte Observer yesterday. According to the article, Israel just passed a law that prohibits employing underweight models. In order to work, the model must present a recent medical report that she (or he) is not malnourished or underweight, according to World Health Organization standards, which includes the Body Mass Index (BMI) as one standard.

Sponsors of the law say that "it could become an example for other countries grappling with the spread of the life-threatening disorders." In Israel, approximately two percent of girls ages 14 to 18 have a "severe eating disorder, a rate similar to other developed countries."

A surprising twist to the law is that advertisers must post a "clearly written notice" on the ad if any digital enhancement is used to create the image. Think the warning boxes on a magazine cigarette ad.
"The law's supporters hope it will encourage the use of healthy models in local advertising and heighten awareness of digital tricks that transform already skinny women into seeming waifs.
"We want to break the illusion that the model we see is real," said Liad Gil-Har, assistant to law sponsor Dr. Rachel Adato, who compared the battle against eating disorders to the struggle against smoking.
I'm impressed with the new law. It is a bold move and one that is certain to take some criticism, but it makes a statement supporting the realistic portrayal of women in the media - for the health of kids and families. Unfortunately, I don't see that such a law would have a chance in the U.S., as some powerful and wealthy groups may argue that it is an attack against individual rights. The idea demonstrates, however, that change can happen. I hope that through organized movements like Miss Representation, Common Sense Media and the HealthyMEdia Commission, positive changes can and will happen in this country too, if we are all persistent enough.

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