In Britain, ultra-thin models may actually be banned from runways

Though huge waves have been being made in modeling with body-positive plus-sized models like Tess Holliday, it’s evident that there’s still a major problem with unrealistic beauty standards in the industry and intense pressure for models to conform to an impossible ideal. Take, for example, Agnes Hedengård, an underweight model who can’t find work because she’s “too heavy.”

The same problem happened to 23-year-old British model Rosalie Nelson, size 8-10, who was told by an agency that they want her “down to the bone.” In response, she started a petition on entitled Create a law to protect models from getting dangerously skinny.”

“Modelling can be a very lonely place, especially for girls working internationally who are away from the usual support network of friends and family,” Nelson writes in the petition. “When models travel overseas they are often put into shared accommodation with other models, and being surrounded by girls who are all striving to stay thin can perpetuate bad eating habits and encourage eating disorders.”

“I’ve been on shoots for up to 10 hours where no food is provided — the underlying message is always that you shouldn’t eat,” she continued.

The petition has resonated with thousands and now has over 50,000 signatures. . . and the government has noticed. The U.K. members of Parliament are now looking into banning “dangerously thin” models from runways. If Britain was to meet the demands of this petition and create legislation banning ultra-thin models from runways, it would be following the footsteps of Spain, Italy, Israel, and France, all of whom have passed similar legislation.

Of course, if the law had an ideal effect, it would prevent eating disorders in models, corruption in the agencies, and unhealthy standards of beauty in the media. Unfortunately, however, laws rarely operate at their ideal, and it’s important to note that the Body Mass Index (BMI) — the common and notoriously-flawed system used to measure height and weight — isn’t exactly a reliable factor to deem if someone is, indeed, “dangerously underweight.” A weight can be unhealthy for one woman and natural for another; in the case of the latter, women at a low-but-healthy weight could be banned from their passion for just like Nelson and Hedengård.

The standards in modeling are entirely ridiculous, and we cannot continue accepting an industry that encourages young women to starve themselves. But at its worst, banning women of a certain BMI from walking the catwalk could be considered thin-shaming. Of course, the petition is well-intentioned, but we need to protect all women from the cruel effects of the industry. Perhaps the solution is to stop using BMI as an indicator for a woman’s health — something that would take a lot of time and effort, as it’s deeply engrained in today’s culture.

Either way, it’s more evident than ever: Something needs to change, and fast.

(Images via Instagram.)

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