I am forever astounded by the shocking inability of the high-fashion industry to learn and change. Those in the clothing business, along with their cohorts in the advertising world, clearly remain committed to using ridiculously skinny models in advertising campaigns.
The latest offender is Gucci. A recent ad displayed a young female model who was waiflike and frail in appearance. Her expression was one of gloom and the impression of gauntness was accentuated by dark makeup around her eyes. Even the young male model in the ad with her appeared unhealthily thin.
Fortunately, this did not go unnoticed by the Advertising Standards Authority of Britain. The regulator ruled that the ad was “irresponsible” and that the model looked “unhealthily thin.” The authority went on to say that the still photograph of the model, which appeared in an online video posted on the website of The Times of London, should not appear again in its current form.
Naturally, Gucci defended the ad claiming that the models were “toned and slim,” and noted that whether a model was unhealthily thin was more of a subjective issue.
Britain is not the only country taking action. Last year, the French Parliament took steps to prohibit modeling agencies from hiring dangerously thin models. The measures were intended to prevent young models from becoming excessively thin to secure employment and to stand against images of unhealthily thin females featured in fashion magazines. Additionally, the government now requires altered photographs of models to be clearly labeled.
Not only do proactive steps like these make the industry safer for models in Europe, but importantly, they have far reaching benefits to every girl and woman who looks at these ads.
Taking steps to regulate what image gets projected to the world that depicts our society’s ideal female figure is a long-awaited action for many of us who see the ravages of deadly eating disorders on a daily basis.
One factor that we know increases the risk of these terrible diseases is unhealthy media images. Although we can’t change genetics, nor can we change other devastating traumas and negative life events experienced by many of those with eating disorders, this is something we can and ought to address. In fact, legislation has recently been introduced in California designed to protect the health and well-being of professional models. This pending bill clarifies that all modeling agencies must operate under the Talent Agency Act which provides necessary worker protections for models. It also clarifies that models are employees of the brands they represent, rather than independent contractors, ensuring that models are granted worker protection rights that all employees have in the U.S.
All eyes are on California; this could be a very positive first step.