Friday, January 12, 2007

On the Catwalk

Maybe you’ve heard about this... the "new" debate about whether or not models are too skinny. In September 2006, the Madrid government intervened in the fashion industry and required models to have a body mass index (BMI) of at least 18 (a BMI of 18.5-24.9 is considered normal). Models who had a BMI lower than 18 were banned from participating in the country’s top fashion show on the grounds that they were "too skinny."

I caught the end of an interview on the Today Show this morning discussing whether or not the similar standards should be required in the U.S. On the Today’s Show homepage this morning, you could vote on the "Question of the Day" which was "Should fashion models' weight be regulated?" The final numbers were 78 percent yes, 22 percent no.

In my opinion, this is a loaded question. Who exactly would the "collective we" be trying to help by regulating weight in the modeling industry. The models? Young girls? Young women? Society?

I get it, you know. I get the whole society, ideal beauty, impressionable young girls argument. I get the health argument, the eating disorder argument. But I also get the aspiration marketing argument. It’s a tough situation.

Here’s what I don’t get. Why does the government or a particular industry believe that they should be able to regulate an individual’s weight? Moreover, in a free, capitalist society, how can we tell designers who can and can’t wear their clothes in marketing campaigns that they are paying for?

Once again, I feel this is an argument about personal responsibility. If a designer wants to be responsible for choosing models at an appropriate weight, I think that’s awesome. If a model wants to make sure that she is healthy, great. If a young girl's parents teach her that a model’s measurements are not the only definition of beauty, fabulous.

By the way, I voted "no." How would you have voted?


Kendra said...

This is a tough one. I think the fashion industry has let the super skinny look go to far. True, a lot of clothes look better on skinny girls - but those same clothes look awful on stick thin girls! I think they are so used to the "thinner is better" strategy that they are unable to back away from it now and have an objective perspective.

I don't think the government should regulate a model's weight. Not only would it never work, but it is stepping over the line into private companies business practices. I do believe that fashion designers should be more aware of the clothes they are designing for their super skinny models. A good designer can make a dress/pants/shirt/whatever that makes all body types look good - not just the ones that starve themselves.

Sarah said...

Allow me to generalize for a moment…I would hope that a designer would not hire a model who clearly has an eating disorder or clearly has a coke problem in order to stay slim; however, in my opinion, many designers are probably more self involved and fixated on figures than models in some cases. (Sarah, you ask, is your opinion a result of the time you’ve wasted watching “Project Runway” and “America’s Top Model”…hours of your life you’ll never see again. Sadly, the answer is yes.) In our “free,” “capitalist,” society should it be up to the designers – yes. But are they going to make the “right” decision? Probably not. Way back in the 80’s models weighed an average of 15% more than what they weigh now (thank you Google). I’d be interested to see if anorexia has increased since that time as well (damn you Google). My point is – unfortunately, sometimes change has to be spoon-fed. This blog falls right up there with the banning of trans fat in New York debate. Some say yes, some say, “it’s my right to eat trans fat.” To those people I say – “You’re an ass hat. This isn’t a smoking debate. Trans fat doesn’t give you a high. The reason why you find trans fat in so many fast food items is because it has a longer shelf life than other natural fats. That is the only reason. You wouldn’t even know if it was replaced with some other kind of natural fat. (Those other natural fats will probably make you just as overweight, but it may lower your chance of coronary heart disease). There’s a little thing called an obesity epidemic and if banning trans fat may help just a little bit, I say it’s worth it. As for the super skinny Spanish models I say…”whaaaaa, I’m a skinny model and I can’t find a job, whaaaaaa. Somebody feed me.”

Lou said...

Bravo, Sarah, bravo.

Consider this… government regulation of our bodies (whether it's through what we weigh, what we eat, or whether or not we choose to smoke) is a slippery slope. Being underweight is not a crime and therefore should not be treated as one. I don't sympathize with those whose plight in life is wearing a size 0 or size 2. However, I don’t think that we should allow the government to make choices for us. If we have a problem with the size of the models that designers are using, we have the choice to not buy their clothes.