To quote the wise words of Andy Warhol, “They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself”, and change is exactly what California’s state assembly member Marc Levine seeks. Marc has observed the alarming numbers of fashion models who are suffering from eating disorders and aims to fight this with a new legislation.
In his bill, The Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board and the State Department of Public Health will endorse a set of health standards for models like, periodic health check-ups and nutrition consultations. This also applies to all international models who wish to acquire work in California. They must attain a health certificate from their doctor prior to carrying out a job.
Modeling agencies are also expected to follow this law, if passed on March 22, 2016, by fulfilling these two steps:
- All local modeling agencies would be licensed by the California Labor Commissioner.
- Agencies would be required to keep health records , and will be fined if they employ models who don’t have an up-to-date doctor’s certificate.
The purpose of this law is to fight the culture of anorexia nervosa and eating disorders among models, who are repeatedly pressured to shed pounds or lose work. It is important to know models aren’t physically damaging their bodies as a “workplace prerequisite.” According to LAweekly.com, at least forty percent of high-fashion models suffer from eating disorders.
Similar laws have already been passed in Israel and France, due to the vast numbers of models going to unrealistic lengths just to keep working in the high-end world of fashion. France specifically was pushed to enforce this law first, because of the eye-opening 2010 death of 28 year-old French model Isabelle Caro, who died from anorexia.
Although many find this proposed law to be a wise step for change, some in the fashion industry disagree, saying its just a way for the California government to fine and control yet another industry. Well, I say to those people this is what happens when big time modeling agencies and fashion designers refuse to listen to reason, just because they secretly support the anorexic practice-culture in the industry; the government is forced to step in. What the industry also fails to realize is that anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and other eating disorder practices begin to consume the mind once started, causing a person to never see the finish line on their weight lost journey. This creates an out of control spiral and these models usually don’t have anyone in the industry to help them back on track.
S.Bryan Austin, professor at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Boston Children’s Hospital, states “This sends a powerful message that Californians are no longer willing to just sit on the sidelines as the health and safety of professional models – many still very young, is jeopardized by the industry’s inhumane and dangerous standards of thinness.”
Many headlines have suggested that Mr. Levine is trying to ban the skinny model, but he is keen on stressing that his intentions are good and not to offend those who are naturally skinny, “we just want to make sure models employed are healthy and not placed in positions that are unhealthy for their bodies.”
During the buzz surrounding Marc Levine’s proposal many models began to stand behind him. Former model Nikki DuBose started modeling when she was 15 and retired in 2012 after achieving great success such as; appearing in Vanity Fair, Maxim, and Elle. During that time Ms.DuBose developed a serious eating disorder. She expressed “It’s a very psychologically damaging industry, like ballet or the military. Agents and clients have this way of being nice to you one minute and putting you down the next. It’s very blunt. They don’t care. All they care about is making money. And there’s another guy or girl walking in the door any second.” She goes on to say,”You need safe working conditions and a safe environment. This is no different than coal miners.”
Sara Ziff another former model voices, “If you don’t fit the clothes, you’re not gonna get the job, and the clothes are usually a size zero or size two. Modeling agencies often advise these girls who are young and impressionable and maybe don’t feel they have much power to talk back. They tell them to lose weight, or ‘tone up.’ We’ve seen agency contracts that stipulate a model can’t gain two centimeters on her hips.”
If accepted, the law would be the first of its kind in the country. California might not be the fashion or modeling capital of the world, but it often leads in media coverage. This bill will also assist in ensuring that the young generation will see healthy images in magazines and on fashion websites. Levine elaborates, “Society has these outrageous expectations for what women are supposed to look like, and for most women, it’s impossible to look that way. With my bill, we can protect the health and safety of fashion models, but we can also have a societal impact to make sure that women and girls have a healthy body image.”
The effect of overly skinny models in the media on young girls is well documented by The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. They recorded:
- “47% of girls in 5th-12th grade reported wanting to lose weight because of magazine pictures”
- “69% of girls in 5th-12th grade reported that magazine pictures influenced their idea of a perfect body shape”
- “42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner”
- “81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat”
This law could bring much-needed change in the fashion and model industry. Are you on board?