When I was a junior in high school, there was a girl in my class who was obsessed with modeling magazines. She would walk around the dorm showing the other girls the latest photos in Vogue and Elle, admiring the models and clearly feeling dissatisfied with her own girlish figure. After the summer, she came back to school – or at least someone said that scarecrow walking around was she. I didn’t recognize her at all, and she wasn’t at school 24 hours before the nuns called her parents and told them to come collect her.
I never saw her again. (I hope she recovered.) But when I was getting my teaching degree, one of my professors, a middle school math teacher, told us his 8th grade girls threw their lunches in the trash. “Don’t their moms pack stuff they like?” we clueless 20- and 30-somethings asked him.
I don’t always understand the obsession with weight that accompanies beauty. Health, it seems to me, should be more important: a glow in the face, good grooming, attractive hair style, and clothes that flatter the unique figure of the wearer. I’ve only seen a handful of girls thin enough to model, and they are rarely pretty enough to pull it off. On the other hand, the girls I’ve known who I found the most appealing (and were never hurting for male company) had pleasing features (even if they weren’t beautiful), good color, and normal figures (within a wide range).
So imagine my delight at discovering that a modeling agency executive is leading a crusade to require Israeli models to pass a health exam which requires a minimum body mass index (BMI). Adi Barkan, in tandem with an MK, successfully submitted legislation to the Knesset requiring modeling agencies to use BMI as a condition for employment. Following the recent death of an Israeli supermodel (who succumbed to anorexia with a weight of under 60 pounds), over 30 Israeli CEOs have agreed to comply with this legislation, and will require models to be screened for health every three months. France and Italy also support this new model employment policy.
While in reality, this policy may result in models the size of Q-tips rather than toothpicks (the exact BMI figure is 18.5, the low end of “normal range”), and airbrushing and other photo tinkering may continue to make models look thinner as well as more even-featured and “perfect” (the ban is on photo editing models “to extremes”), if models begin to look a little more like human beings and less like what the Allies discovered when they liberated Auschwitz, that will be a good thing for everyone.