As a journalism student, I’ve seen some shocking things done with Photoshop. I watched someone add an extra head to a person the other day, just for kicks. The photo was not intended for publication. As far as I know.
As a human being who happens to identify as female, I’ve also seen some shocking things in the media. The ever-shrinking standard of beauty is one of them. Though really, is it even shocking anymore?
On Monday, the Israeli government announced plans to tackle too-thin ideals and tweaked photos in one fell swoop. A new law is requiring models to hand over a medical report at every photo shoot, stating that they are not underweight and publications to disclose any time they use an image altered to make a person appear thinner.
Models must be able to prove that their body mass index (BMI), which is calculated by weight and height, is above 18.5, the World Health Organization’s definition of malnutrition.
All of this is being done in an effort to combat eating disorder rates. About two percent of Israeli girls ages 14-18 are diagnosed with anorexia or bulimia, which is similar to statistics in other developed countries, including the US.
I’m a self-professed media junkie, raised on a steady diet of tabloid magazines and entertainment news shows. I would be lying if I said the constant stream of stick-thin models and toned and taut ingenues didn’t have a (huge) impact on my body image and self-esteem. And as a nosy, blabbermouth journalist who writes about this stuff, I’ve found it exceptionally rare (and refreshing) to find a woman entirely unaffected by the flood of skinny celebrities and supermodels.
But I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this new law, which is why I’m so eager to open up the dialogue here on HelloGiggles. One one hand, I’m thrilled that a government body is stepping up and addressing something that I see as a significant factor in the development of skewed self-image and unhealthy behaviors. On the other hand, I respect the backlash that immediately started brewing.
Israeli model Adi Neumman has already been very vocal about the fact that she wouldn’t be allowed to work under the new law. Though she claims to be perfectly healthy, her BMI is 18.3.
And while I don’t believe Adi’s apparent genetic predisposition is common in the modeling world, I do know plenty of naturally slender women who will take issue with this law. Not every super skinny woman has an eating disorder, and there is in fact such a phenomenon as thin-shaming, which is about as positive and productive as its snarky cousins, fat-shaming and slut-shaming.
There’s also a part of me that thinks instituting media policies in an effort to reduce eating disorder rates is a bit reductive. Please don’t get me wrong, I absolutely agree that the media plays a huge part in eroding women’s body confidence (see: paragraphs six and seven above), but eating disorders are complicated psychological illnesses.
Eliminating the amount of emaciated models may certainly help, but I don’t want the world to think it’s a surefire cure. Girls (and boys for that matter) need to be encouraged and supported in other domains, and taught to value themselves and others outside the realm of appearance. It sounds cheesy, but in my opinion, that’s what can really make a dent in eating disorder stats.
All that being said, I’m totally on board with the new Photoshop regulations. If you haven’t seen the ridiculous results that a few clicks of the mouse can produce, please start here. And Dove’s iconic “Evolution” video is a great reminder that the majority of magazine magic is made up of equal parts makeup, lighting and airbrushing.
If I sound torn about the topic, I am. I’m hoping some of you can weigh in (seriously, no pun was intended, but I typed it and laughed, so it stays) on the issue. Maybe just getting the conversation going among the smart, sassy HG readers is enough for now.