Whether we're flipping through a magazine or watching TV, images of ultra thinness are all around us.
The stick thin model ideal pushed by the fashion industry often gets the blame for causing eating disorders among young women. While former supermodel Tyra Banks has tried to present a diversity of female body images on her popular series, America's Next Top Model, thin is still in.
In fact, thinness is held with such regard in our culture that according to the National Eating Disorder Information Centre, 37% of women who are an acceptable weight are trying to lose weight.
"The fashion industry has such a huge impact on females and especially young girls," says Erin Chan, a Ryerson University fashion design student. "As we all know, there are a lot of young girls who turn to bulimia or anorexia and it's a huge problem."
Some countries have had enough. In Madrid, Spain, the regional government put through legislation requiring all models to have a body mass index higher than 18, otherwise they cannot partake in the city's fashion week shows. In effect, models that are too thin are forced off the catwalk.
Madrid's skinny model ban has sparked huge international debate, but has also encouraged other governments in India and Israel to impose similar bans.
But is this legislation fair? spoke with Dan Grant, freelance model agent and publisher of Modelresource.ca, to answer this question and much more.
Dan GrantA month ago there was an incident in Uruguay where a model actually died. She had been only been eating salad and Diet Coke for two months. Her heart gave out; she died during Montevideo fashion week. I mean, she was an unknown model, it was a very small event, but it made headlines enough that somebody ran with it in Madrid. Somebody was looking to add profile to their event, did so, and it became a lightning rod.
That's a good question. The designers — the couture designers especially — really like to have a tall, thin frame; they feel that's how their clothes look best. So when they design, they design with that body type in mind because they know whom their public is, they know who's buying their clothes. And they know what appeals to the couturiers; the people who really want to make an impression when they go to parties. Those people are obsessed with youth; those people are obsessed with keeping a thin appearance. [Those kind of] models are being hired for the big shows because the people who have the money want to look that way.
It could be a positive step, but I don't think an outright ban is right… If a designer wanted to do just a plus-size show with models who have an above-average body mass index, there would be a huge storm of controversy if somebody said we can't have models who are oversized on the runway. I think quotas would be a better solution. I think to say that a only certain number of your models can be this thin — just so you're not telling people they can't work just because they're a certain body type. If that's what the designers want again, if that's the way they feel their clothes should look, we can't tell a girl who's 16, who's naturally that thin, we don't want you, you're ugly.
Fair enough. I'm not trying to say that it's not an important issue. Kate Moss has always been thin and I don't approve of her habits of how she stayed thin for so long or at least what I speculate with the cocaine. They have chosen to target Kate Moss, they have chosen to look at these certain models who are size zeroes, the America's Next Top Models who are making themselves sick to stay thin. That's whom they happened to choose in this particular case, but there are so many other examples out there that are much more high profile of people who way too thin that they could have targeted as well. They just happened to be models in this case.