by Rebecca Borison
Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli, newly crowned the hottest woman in the world by Maxim magazine, will likely be relieved to know that, at 5’8″ and 127 pounds, she meets the requirements of the new Israeli law mandating that models maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI).
The law, passed in March, requires models to provide a recent medical report at every photo shoot that shows that the model is healthy and has a BMI above 18.5. In order to maintain that BMI, a 5’8” model would need to weigh above 119 pounds.While individual fashion shows have started to issue similar rules, this seems to be the first government-mandated regulation in the world. Lawmakers in Israel hope that the law will show young girls that being unhealthily thin is not desirable.
According to a 2000 World Health Organization survey, more than 70 percent of girls (grade 6-10) in Israel want to change their bodies, and about half of them said they felt “too fat.” Two percent of Israeli girls between the ages of 14 and 18 have severe eating disorders.
A 2011 New York Times article suggests that eating disorders may disproportionately affect Israeli girls as well as American Orthodox girls. Rabbi Saul Zucker, educational director for the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, explains, “If we don’t confront it, it’s going to get worse.”
In addition to BMI regulations, the law requires Israeli advertisers to fess up if they are digitally altering pictures; the manipulated images must include a clearly written notice.
Israel is to be commended for being the first country to take this huge step. Not only will this law be saving the lives of models, but it will also be promoting a healthier body image for young girls. While the effect the law will actually have remains to be seen, it is a great first step. Obviously the lawmakers haven’t waved a magic wand that will erase eating disorders and body-image issues from the country, but they’re showing that these issues are on the government’s radar. That’s huge.
Stay tuned for a new Knesset law allowing doctors to involuntarily hospitalize anorexia patients whose lives are in imminent, immediate danger.