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Banning the Skinny:

Spain acted first, but England and Italy may follow, adopting measures to protect the people of Europe from excessively skinny runway models. Radley Balko has the details here.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. The Universal Passion for Banning Things:
  2. Banning the Skinny:
Fub:
The stated purpose of the law is to protect impressionable young women from eating disorders. Radley has an amusing legislative solution. But the obvious issue is that the laws are solutions looking for problems.

Twiggy, who arguably started the "thin" trend 40 years ago, doesn't seem to suffer from an eating disorder. In fact she's still going strong in an active and ever changing career. She would be an excellent role model for young women of today.
9.17.2006 2:36pm
hls_steve (mail):
Are skinny runway models a threat? like terrorists or something? do people really need to be “protected” from a bunch 90 lb women? If models don’t what to be so skinny they can stop being models (just like if football players don’t want to get tackled they can stop being football players, or if lawyers don’t want to read so many cases they can stop being lawyers). This is none of the government’s business. If the fashion industry is worried about eating disorders let them stop employing the hyper-skinny, but legislation is not the answer (of course, I think legislation is almost never the answer).
9.17.2006 2:41pm
narniabound (mail):
Isn't it the model's individual choice to appear as she chooses to appear? Shouldn't the question of responsibility be directed at advertisers rather than the girls?
9.17.2006 3:16pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
The other side of banning the skinny is protecting the fat, which is what San Francisco does. Jennifer Portnick, a 240-pound, 5-foot-8 inch aerobics instructor, got turned down when applying for a Jazzercise franchise, and she complained to the San Francisco Human Rights Commission. The poltroons at Jazzercise settled and withdrew their “fit appearance standard.” According to Forbes, she went on to become an instructor at the East Bay YMCA, and has taught over-subscribed aerobics classes (not necessarily at the YMCA).

Here we see the nanny state speaking out of both sides of its mouth. Jennifer has a body mass index of 36, which goes beyond “overweight” to obese (fat). The CDC says:


“People who are overweight or obese are at higher risk for chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. At a minimum, anyone who is obese should try to avoid gaining additional weight. In addition, anyone who is obese should try to lose weight. …”



Now San Francisco is Nancy Polosi’s home territory, and would not doubt support the San Francisco Human Rights Commission. Do you really want her as Speaker of the House?
9.17.2006 3:44pm
Houston Lawyer:
Saturday Night Live ran their "Hire the Incompetent" campaign decades ago. We are suffering a pandemic of obesity, and people complain that models are too thin. The models are also tall and good looking, which I'm sure isn't accidental. It is only a matter of time before this is outlawed as well.

I'm going to start a franchise selling lingerie to fat women, since that's where the money is.
9.17.2006 3:55pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
File it under "workplace safety" and nobody will bitch.
9.17.2006 4:49pm
FXKLM:

I'm going to start a franchise selling lingerie to fat women, since that's where the money is.


I suspect such a business already exists, but there's no way I'm going to check that through Google.
9.17.2006 5:36pm
Blue Passport Red Jersey (mail):
HLS,

Is it really axiomatic, as you seem to suggest, that "This is none of the government’s business"?

Should the U.S. take advice from Spanish law students on what the "business" of the U.S. government should be? Positive law be damned?

I'm not certain what I the consequences of this are respecting overall world trend, or if it is a cultural phenomenon, but I don't dare question the right of duly elected legislators and democratically preserved judicial positions to decide what the business of THEIR government is.

Are you a Spanish national? Are you going to march on Cibeles? Put up posters on the windows of La'Caixa' next to those of the JNR? Or maybe you can instead put up sections of ABC, El Pais, El Mundo, Gala, et.al., in which the images of catwalks and their models are plastered all over the culture section (as opposed to in the U.S. where I tend not to see reviews of fashion shows in all the newspapers) to be viewed by significant portions of the population (including impressionable young individuals)?

If you are NOT a Spanish national, perhaps you are going to become one to be sure that this foreign legislature commits to your rubric of what the business of the government is, thereby diminishing the threat that the Spanish pueblo poses to your idea of what THEIR government's business is? Maybe the Congreso de Diputados will invite you to Moncloa to advise them on what the government in that constitutional democratic sovereign state should or should not entertain as business as brought down from the mountain by Professor Steve?


"I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken." - The other O.C.
9.17.2006 6:28pm
Blue Passport Red Jersey (mail):
Sorry for the double post, but in response to the linking post's claim of buying top fashion magazines: Well, it illustrates the ignorance regarding the ubiquitous nature of the images. If he wants to come over to my house and read Hola! with me, or any other daily, I'd be happy to welcome him. I make no comment on the nature of the media in Italy or France.
9.17.2006 6:43pm
SeaLawyer:

Should the U.S. take advice from Spanish law students on what the "business" of the U.S. government should be? Positive law be damned?

I'm not certain what I the consequences of this are respecting overall world trend, or if it is a cultural phenomenon, but I don't dare question the right of duly elected legislators and democratically preserved judicial positions to decide what the business of THEIR government is.


Blue Passport Red Jersey,
The great thing about living in the US is not only can we speak out against our govt. we can also speak out against any other govt. that we want too.
9.17.2006 9:24pm
A Guest (mail):
hls_steve "Are skinny runway models a threat? like terrorists or something?"

No, the simple answer is that skinny models are not an actual threat like, say, "Islamofascists," or whatever you want to call them. Therefore, there's no risk to Eurocrats in actually, say, legislating against them. I bet we could even get a forceful UN resolution out of them ;-)
9.17.2006 9:26pm
hls_steve (mail):
Blue Passport Red Jersey,

I don’t think someone needs to be a Spanish national to object to this, anymore than someone would have needed to be a South African to object to apartheid. I’m not arguing that banning skinny models would be objectionable under some precept of U.S. law. And I certainly think that sovereign nations can do what they want, if Spain wants to ban the skinny then fine, I won’t be going to Spain. I am arguing in the abstract that governments in general shouldn’t be passing this type of restriction.

Even if “images of catwalks and their models are plastered all over the culture section ... to be viewed by significant portions of the population (including impressionable young individuals)” why should the government get involved. What if impressionable young individuals are reading Catcher in the Rye? Some people think that’s harmful, should the government censor every copy of the book, or maybe start burning them?

I might also point out that this issue is not clearly limited to Spain (i.e. “...but England and Italy may follow”). If it’s Madrid now, and London and Milan next, who’s to say that New York and LA won’t follow.
9.17.2006 9:52pm
A.C.:
Legislating the size of runway models is absurd, but I would still like to see some nice clothes that were actually designed for a size 12 and have to be scaled down to fit women who are built like David Bowie. Most models have both a lifestyle that the majority of adult women don't want and a genetic heritage that the majority of people don't have. Well, fine for them. But what about those of us who, um, buy clothes? It shouldn't be too hard to find some gorgeous women with curves to display things that might appeal to women with the normal range of body types.

(Note that obesity isn't the issue here. That's a problem, but normal shouldn't be a problem. Defining the average as a problem may even contribute to obesity, if healthy people who can't get completely scrawny decide to give up and let themselves go. Just a thought.)
9.17.2006 10:04pm
Blue Passport Red Jersey (mail):
Tp HLS_Steve and SeaLawyer,

SeaLawyer,

The great thing about being an American (i.e., blue passport) and a law student somewhere in the great city of Ann Arboring is that I can speak out against OUR government, OTHER governments, and those people who think GOVERNMENT is monolithic concept or SHOULD be monolithic, implying that every human being has the same concept of what a government should be as Steve's (STEVE HOOOOOOLT!!!!). Should a government be Rawlsian? Benthamite? What's the social welfare function? How about efficiency? Kaldor Hicks? Pareto-Optimality?

The fact that we CAN speak out does not imply that we are correct, or that no criticism should befall someone who makes claims such as "That is not THE government's business". Or, do you disagree? And I reiterate, I never took a position on the subject itself. Instead, I suggested that, if Steve knows something about Spanish law, now would be the time to speak up, because the "business" of a "government" is directly related to the same, and if someone should suggest Spanish law is related to someone;s abstract in Cambride, MA, well, the burden of proof and persuasion is on THAT person because he believes that his abstract outweighs the abstract to which 40 MILLION spaniards have bound themselves. Or no?


Steve-0 (yeah, you know), you say:

"I am arguing in the abstract that governments in general shouldn’t be passing this type of restriction."

Wonderful. Vote libertarian like I do. Then realize that we're not all libertarians nor do all of us WANT to be.

Then you follow....

"Some people think that’s harmful, should the government censor every copy of the book, or maybe start burning them?"

If 99% of the voting citizens in the United States voted to burn the Bible or Clifford the Big Red Stalinist or Curious and Furious George, then that's what a democratic GOVERNMENT should do (basing MY model on Kaldor-Hicks). What if 99% of the Spanish populace decided to ban thin models? Does your opinion on YOUR abstract outweigh the abstract now governing those 40 million? Or is your Rawlsian approach that we should value our society based upon the least-well-off individual, e.g., you, the poor Harvard libertarian that didn't get his way but truly in his heart believes that governments should be about what HE thinks?

And while you're at it, let us all know which social welfare function is existentially better than the other, but please make no reference to utility of individuals, that's TOOOO concrete. We're talking about abstracts here, folks.
9.17.2006 10:21pm
hls_steve (mail):
Blue Passport Red Jersey,

And if 99% of the voting citizens in the United States voted to enslave the rest of the populace? Is that what a “democratic GOVERNMENT” should do? How much majority tyranny should we tolerate? Social welfare functions be damned my objection is to paternalism (and that’s what this is). No matter how many people, or which people, would be better off under paternalistic legislation I would still object to it.
9.17.2006 10:39pm
Blue Passport Red Jersey (mail):
Is that what a democratic government should do based upon its format of government? Yes. Is it morally reprehensible? Yes. Is this an example that a professor at HLS or anywhere else would let you get away with? No.

And here's where your whole life philosophy should fall apart were you to respond in an intellectually honest way regarding the implications of the statement:

"No matter how many people, or which people, would be better off under paternalistic legislation I would still object to it."

Well said, HLS. We have come full circle. Your objection and desire to enlighten "no matter how many people, or which people" to your enlightened opinion is the height of paternalism. Oh, Lord, Steve Holt, please let us know what laws are paternalistic and which are not, we beseech you to be wiser than us on that definition when it comes to runway models and wheat grown in my backyard, for our votes are not as important as your opinion on paternalism, this way pray, in the name of the Father, Steve, in the name of the Son, Steve, and the name of Big Brother, Steve. Sorry, 99 % of voters, Steve thinks it's too paternalistic, guess there's next year when Steve provides us a forum for what we want. No promises, though.

As for the definition of paternalistic (something you also fail to define, except that we should enshrine Steve-O, a master of wigwammery at HLS to let us know when his corns ache):

Surely you're not comparing slavery to burning a book, or are you? I wouldn't think that this example would fly at HLS, but I guess there's no Gilbert's on Life, is there? Do you consider slavery to representative of the evils of paternalism? How about speed limits (I grew up in Montana, so, hey, I think even you might be able to infer where I stand on that subject)?

Is there a ius cogens norm against "paternalism" similar to the ones that certain people (those who talk in absolutes, such as YOU do) suggest exist against apartheid and slavery? Do you put the three in the same category?

Which is paternalism? A 9-1 decision by the board of directors and the HLS kid goes crying out talking about absolutes? An 11-1 jury? An Amendment passed by the requisite number of states? How about a 5-4 decision by SCOTUS?
9.17.2006 11:08pm
hls_steve (mail):
Blue Passport Red Jersey,


“We have come full circle. Your objection and desire to enlighten "no matter how many people, or which people" to your enlightened opinion is the height of paternalism.”


If only your philosophical ability were as acute as your flare for sarcasm. Paternalism involves protecting people from themselves, my objection involves protecting people from others (namely those who would tell them what they can and can’t do for their own good). Paternalistic laws take away the freedom of individuals to choose for themselves what to do with their bodies, or what to do with their property, or what kind of contracts to enter into. My objection would entail preventing people from taking away the freedom of others; it makes no claim against what individuals can do with themselves.

This regulation is most certainly paternalistic. Models can’t decide for themselves how skinny to be, so we won’t let them be “too skinny.” Young girls are so easily manipulated into making “bad” choices about weight, so we’ll make sure they don’t see any pictures that might make them feel bad about themselves. Protecting models and young girls from themselves, that’s paternalism!


“Surely you're not comparing slavery to burning a book, or are you? I wouldn't think that this example would fly at HLS, but I guess there's no Gilbert's on Life, is there? Do you consider slavery to representative of the evils of paternalism? How about speed limits (I grew up in Montana, so, hey, I think even you might be able to infer where I stand on that subject)?”


Ah… the straw man fallacy, maybe that passes for sound reasoning in Montana. But I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you genuinely misunderstood me. Book burning (and all other censorship) is certainly a form of paternalism, slavery clearly is not. But what slavery, book burning, and paternalism have in common is that they are all instances of majority tyranny (which, I suppose, is to be expected from unconstrained democracy).


“Is that what a democratic government should do based upon its format of government? Yes. Is it morally reprehensible? Yes. Is this an example that a professor at HLS or anywhere else would let you get away with? No.”


Why that sounds like a sarcasm-free point! And you had such a good run going, to bad... If a democratic form of government entails this “morally reprehensible” result then isn’t there something wrong with this form of government? (what if it were 98%, 97%, 51%, same result?) As for whether I would get away with this hypo here or at any other law school, I didn’t realize that this was Professor Red Jersey’s International Law and Sarcasm seminar, will the final be open-book or closed? (I can be sarcastic too... not as well as you, but perhaps that’s because I’d rather focus on coherent arguments).


“Is there a ius cogens norm against "paternalism" similar to the ones that certain people (those who talk in absolutes, such as YOU do) suggest exist against apartheid and slavery? Do you put the three in the same category?”


You seem to have mistaken me for an moral-absolutist. I’m not, actually. More of a subjectivist/ethical-egoist. But that’s not really the point here.
9.18.2006 12:17am
Joe7 (mail):
The real irony here is that the fashion show venues were taking care of the problem. No legislation is needed. (Yes, in the case of Spain, the Madrid government put pressure on the promoters, but that is a legitimate job of government. In this case, I think the industry was ready for this change; note that it was the models complaining, not the designers--they know who they sell to and it's not the anorexic. As long as everyone has the same restriction, I doubt they mind.)

(Now if they could put pressure to prohibit women with implants from modeling or posing for men's magazines....)
9.18.2006 3:07am
Joe7 (mail):
One other point; the reason this was a legitimate concern of the Madrid government is that the fashion show is a tourist event and it promotes the city of Madrid. They probably did some research and found that going with less anorexic models would increase visitors. Of course, they aren't going to say that. What government official can pass up an opportunity to wax self-righteous?
9.18.2006 3:13am
Blue Passport Red Jersey (mail):
HLS Steve-O,

Or you'd rather focus on my sarcasm than the coherent arguments you easily ignore. Apologies for the sarcasm, my professors thought we could deal with it, I assumed you were capable of the same. We all know Turow is full of crap anyway, and hell, his daughter goes here so I guess even she knew as much.

Models can't decide how skinny to be? Do models have the capacity to generate a calorie deficit or surplus.

I guess you DID recognize that your slavery argument was a "straw man" well, actually, a Red Herring. Luckily, you convinced yourself that the logical phallacy was mine. Nicely done.

The point, Steve Holt, is that your utopia is not the utopia of others. And as much as you'd like it to be true to prove a point: paternalism is not slavery, although slavery is paternalistic. Like I said, I'm a libertarian and I suggest that our ideal form of governments would share many characteristics. Of course, that is not true of all people's utopia. And perhaps you're in the post-post-modernist age and are one of the few people who really understand Eggers, Pollack, and McSweeneys, but I suggest that your form of government would, among other results, take away the right of parents to discipline and guide children (think ten year olds smoking), something that would be considered to be equally paternalistic by some.
9.18.2006 4:52am
hls_steve (mail):
Blue Passport Red Jersey,

hls_steve wrote
Book burning (and all other censorship) is certainly a form of paternalism, slavery clearly is not.

Blue Passport Red Jersey wrote
And as much as you'd like it to be true to prove a point: paternalism is not slavery

As much as I’d like it to be true? Perhaps I wasn’t clear. Paternalism requires restricting someone’s liberty and justifying it as being for their own good, slavery is certainly a restriction on liberty but it is done without this justification. The feature that they share is that they are both illegitimate restrictions on liberty.


“but I suggest that your form of government would, among other results, take away the right of parents to discipline and guide children (think ten year olds smoking), something that would be considered to be equally paternalistic by some.”

I don’t necessarily disagree with you (of course, I not sure that taking away this “right” would bad thing (since I’m not sure it is a right at all)).
9.18.2006 8:46am
markm (mail):
"What if 99% of the Spanish populace decided to ban thin models?" If 99% of them simply decided not to buy clothing on the basis of what it looked like on anorexic models, then there wouldn't be a problem.
9.18.2006 4:13pm
Porkchop (mail):
Isn't this most likely a violation of the EU human rights law? (Not that I'm very knowledgeable on the subject.) It seems that they are denying the models the right to be employed at their chosen profession based on physical characteristics that may not (or, I suppose, may) be subject to the models' control. It seems like most everything else is a violation of EU human rights law, so why not this?

Blue ... Red ...

I grew up in NE Montana -- I too remember the good old days of "reasonable and prudent." Damn that Nixon and his double nickel! (And more recently, damn those Germans and their "speed tourism".)

I may be one of the few people frequenting this blog who looks back fondly on a time when there was no speed limit and you could drink alcohol at 19 (later dropped to 18).
9.18.2006 5:16pm
Dan Hamilton:
You are ALL missing the point. Women are unable to fight against the anti-woman fashion industry. These people have been trying to sell Tweggy and ultra-skinny women for 40 years. They were laughed of the pages when Tweggy came out but then these anti-women people went back into the woodwork and started again. Slowly, very slowly over the last 40 years they have conned women into thinking thinner and thinner was better and better. The women can't help themselvies. They try and follow this anti-woman BS.

The only way to help women fight the anti-women Gays and Lisbos is to make laws such as Spain did.

Women have been attacked for 40 years. The poor things can't help themselves, we have to help them.

Outlaw the ultra-thin. All models must eat each day. We must save the women they cannot save themselves.
9.18.2006 5:25pm
whit (mail):
"Here we see the nanny state speaking out of both sides of its mouth. Jennifer has a body mass index of 36, which goes beyond “overweight” to obese (fat). The CDC says:"

First, I want to say that I find it disgusting, paternalistic and true nanny-state'esque that any govt. would REGULATE the size of models.

Now... Since you brought it up, BMI (Body Mass Index) is a very poor measure of obesity, because it does not take FAT %age into account, only Mass. I am not saying that Jennifer is or isn't obese, but I am saying that the AMA's (and CDC's) acceptance of BMI as a proxy for level of bodyfat is problematic. I happen to be a strength athlete, as are many of my fellow athletes. I know women with 12% bf, and men with 10% bf (very thin for a 30 yr adult) who qualify as OBESE under the BMI since it doesn't distinguish between muscle and fat. Overweight is not the problem - overFAT is.

BMI works fine (generally) for the center of the curve- sedentary individuals. For those with any significant muscle mass, it falsely labels people as obese (or even grossly obese) who are in fact, phenomenally fit.
9.18.2006 5:34pm
hls_steve (mail):

Dan Hamilton wrote:
"Outlaw the ultra-thin. All models must eat each day. We must save the women they cannot save themselves."

I sincerely hope your being sarcastic!
9.18.2006 8:34pm
Dick King:
Obese or buff? Judge for yourself.

-dk
9.18.2006 9:23pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
Now San Francisco is Nancy Polosi’s home territory, and would not doubt support the San Francisco Human Rights Commission. Do you really want her as Speaker of the House?

Wow, that is the most, ahem, creative reason I have ever heard for not wanting Pelosi to become Speaker. "Oh no! Some people did something stupid in the city she's from! I don't know what Pelosi thinks of it, or what relevance this has to any issue facing America... but vote Republican!"
9.19.2006 2:58am
Suzy:
"Protecting models and young girls from themselves, that’s paternalism!"

Or maternalism, maybe. Models are normally hired and fired based on appearance, yes? So since this fashion show was somehow state-sponsored, the employer of the models set some standards for the appearance it wanted (nothing too thin). Since models of normal body weight would normally be unemployed for being too fat, I'm not really sure why this switcheroo is a crisis of paternalism.
9.19.2006 4:46pm