Local Lawmakers Want to Ban “Too-Thin” Models

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Models are known for a lot of things: their looks, their art, their long hours of work and probable discomfort. But they’re also known to be thin — too thin, according to San Rafael Assemblyman Marc Levine, who wants to introduce legislation that bans models that are too thin from the runway. Levine has introduced a bill currently called AB2539 which “addresses the pervasive power of the fashion industry to shape culture and its ability to ‘define, transmit, and reinforce an unrealistic standard of thinness.’”

Levine certainly has a point. The social images of women that we not only show to our young people but present such images as being better is detrimental to self-esteem and lifelong happiness. As the bill says, “Scientific research has shown that viewing media images of extremely thin models leads to body dissatisfaction in adolescent girls and young women, especially those who already have heightened vulnerability to eating disorders.”

Levine’s bill is modeled — if you will — after similar laws that have been passed in France. There, models need to have a doctor’s certificate that says their health is “compatible with the practice of the profession.” People who break this law could face six months in jail and a not-insignificant fine. The French law also specifies that any photos of models that have been digitally enhanced (or reduced, as the case may be) must be labeled as such.

So is it possible that these new laws about healthy body weight will trickle down into the rest of the fashion industry? Certainly, but the better question is whether it’s likely. The industry has been this way for a very long time, and nobody ever likes change — even when it’s good. We could be seeing models who aren’t quite so skeletal on the runway soon.

“I definitely think France’s new law will trickle down and affect runway shows here,” said Ashley Johnson at the Skylight, a historic building at Moynihan Station in Manhattan. “I think we’ll gradually start getting more normal-figured women on the runway.”

For the record, laws and bills like Levine’s art not saying it is not okay to be thin. And, also for the record, I agree with that notion. Whatever way a body is naturally is fine, however you define that for yourself. What’s not fine is starving yourself to find jobs, to be part of a culture that so values thinness it’s doing often irreversible damage to its population.

Former models and eating-disorder survivors like Nikki DuBose, who is now a health advocate, are glad to see this kind of lawmaking go into effect. “I know that this legislation is critically needed and over-due,” she says.