A groundbreaking law passed in Israel last week bans both male and female models from working if they are too skinny.
Israel decided to use the standards of the body mass index to determine if a model is underweight. The body mass index, or BMI, measures your weight and height to determine if you are at a healthy weight or not. It’s calculated by dividing your height in meters and your weight in kilograms. This formula is used by organizations including the US Military and the World Health Organization to determine quickly and easily how healthy someone is. It is an estimation of someone’s health, as opposed to an actual detailed analysis.
There are four categories a person could fall in. The first is underweight. This is anything less than 18.5. Second is healthy weight, which is 18.6 to 24.9. Next is overweight, which is 25-29.9. Finally, obese, which is 30 and above.
Based on the BMI standards a model, for example, who is 5 foot 9 inches must not weigh less than 125 pounds. According to this Israeli law, any model hired for a job, can not fall under 18.5 BMI. If a model falls into the underweight category he or she must have a doctor’s note saying they are healthy.
Other countries, including Spain and Australia, set weight limits for models in the previous years. But the law in Israel is one of the most aggressive forms of legislation the fashion world has ever seen.
Over the years, models were put under a severe amount of pressure to be thin. That pressure is blamed for a rise in eating disorders among young girls trying to emulate their favorite models. It reached a point where health experts around the world became concerned.
Israeli fashion photographer, Adi Barkan, strongly supported the law before it passed. He personally saw how the pressures of being too thin affected models in devastating ways. He told CNN reporter Matthew Chance how he knew a model who literally starved herself to death. “We didn’t know how much power we had. We can kill and we can save people,” he told Chance.
He hopes the new law will act as a wake up call to the rest of the fashion world, because he doesn’t want to see more girls do anymore harm to their bodies.