Sunday, December 03, 2006

Italy Says No to Skinny

According to Guardian Unlimited's Barbara McMahon, Italy has banned uber-skinny models from their runways in February. I've seen this headline floating around for awhile.

"The code of conduct, to be issued this month, means that models will be scrutinized for body mass indexes, which use height and weight measurements to determine body fat, before they are allowed to work. Any girl with a BMI of less than 18.5 will be sent home. Other measures are a minimum age limit of 16 for models and a ban on using make-up to achieve an 'anorexic look' with dark shadows under the eyes," writes McMahon.

This is wonderful and, sadly, necessary. Though in my opinion, models are not as freakishly thin as they were in the 90s, the majority still do not represent a typical woman.

Yes, I know, they're NOT typical women. They're models. But that means they are in the public eye, showing women of all ages what to wear. Clothes designed for anorexic women look horrible on 'normal' women. And teenage girls who can't get the ultra-low-rise pants to cover her ass crack (because she actually HAS an ass crack) will learn to hate their bodies.

That's a simplification of a real phenomenon, but if you'll excuse the popcorn version of armchair psychology, I'll just keep going.

Of course, there is a risk of discrimination. But it's hard to say that (or type that) with a straight face. When has the fashion industry ever not been prejudiced? They are, in particular, prejudiced against fat women (exception: clothing designers who DESIGN clothes for bigger women). In this case, the ridiculously unhealthy sack of bones can go home while the healthy, curvy girl can show her shit on the runway.

Okay, that sounds harsh. J and I had a discussion about this the other day, and I was the cynic. I have trouble feeling sorry for women (and men) in the entertainment industry who become anorexic or bulimic. The same way that I don't feel sorry for women (and men) in said industry who gain a lot of weight in a short amount of time. All of these situations stem from mental illness.

I have trouble feeling sorry for these ill women and men because it makes me really mad. I can't help but think about all those pre-pubescent/pubescent girls reading magazines smeared with 50-pound women who care more about their careers than their own health. What kind of example is that?

This is why, as per the discussion J and I had, I don't feel upset or embarrassed when people make fun of someone like Mary-Kate Olsen or Nicole Ritchie. Both women have eating disorders and both are ridiculed frequently. They both have experience in the public arena, both know how entertainment news works, and both know that people are constantly looking at them. Most likely because of this (and the stresses surrounding a public life), the girls eat less and less until finally they are on a watermelon or celery diet. The public notices. Obviously. But in 2006, I am finally hearing people talk about them and their bodies negatively. This gives me hope for the public and, maybe, will force these girls to get help.

So, I guess all I'm saying is right on, Italy. I hope this starts a new trend. If models are normal, maybe more clothes will be normal, allowing women to be who they are and find clothes to match.


Adam Elend said...

Agree with your message, but this is a disgusting method of acheiving it.

We're not happy with the way thin models put pressure on young girls so the government is going to set a body fat percentage?

Arbitrary discrimination. If my body fat percentage is 17% I somehow have less right to be employed as a model?

The government should protect you from discrimination, not promote it. The government can change public opinion by limiting people's freedom, but it's not a very just way of going about it... and sometimes you end up changing the government instead.

Amanda said...

Ah, but it isn't arbitrary. The BMI chart (you can find one here or more in depth information here)is an approved source of determining healthy or unhealthy weight. A BMI of 19 is the lowest healthy rate. Everything else is underweight.

I understand where you're coming from, but in this case, it feels more like testing for drugs in athletes than barring black people from voting.

Adam Elend said...

No, I don't think so. It would be like saying no pitcher can play who throws above a 93 mph fast ball, because it's shown to be unhealthy for his arm. It's judging based on performance, not by what you put in your body.

For some people, a body fat percentage below 19% is perfectly normal. Those are all just guidelines.

Adam Elend said...

From the resource you sent me to:

How reliable is BMI as an indicator of body fatness?

The correlation between the BMI number and body fatness is fairly strong; however the correlation varies by sex, race, and age. These variations include the following examples: 3, 4

* At the same BMI, women tend to have more body fat than men.
* At the same BMI, older people, on average, tend to have more body fat than younger adults.
* Highly trained athletes may have a high BMI because of increased muscularity rather than increased body fatness.

Amanda said...

Ah yes, but those differences all equal a higher BMI. They say nothing about people with a lower BMI.

I think you have some good points, but I'm sticking with my opinion.

Dave said...

So now overweight AND super skinny girls are going to get inferiority complexes...

Gooooo Italy!!!

Yes, I realize this is a healthier standard to try and achieve. But you are still just reshuffling the same "pretty" deck that's been around since women started wearing clothes. Some will be pretty and some will be ugly. (Men have this too, but it's based mostly on employment and dick size) And no matter what you or your government do you will still have set something that isn't attainable by everyone. And that failure cuts so deep...

PS Yes, I am aware that that last line has no real bearing on this argument and really is just a cheap pull at the readers' emotions. I just like to try win by any means necessary.