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The Universal Passion for Banning Things:

Jonathan Adler and Radley Balko (The Agitator) point to this story, from England:

Steve Bloomfield, a spokesman for the Eating Disorders Association, said: "We do think legislation [too ban the use of supposedly underweight models] is needed.

"This is about protecting the young women and men who work in the fashion industry, as well as those who are at risk of an eating disorder and can be influenced by the pictures that they see.

"The fashion industry is there to make money and there is no legislation to protect models. It basically exploits people who are underweight and forces others to follow suit."

The Madrid initiative followed the death of 22-year-old Luisel Ramos during a fashion show in Uruguay last month. The emaciated model died of a heart attack moments after stepping off the catwalk — a result of having eaten nothing but green leaves, washed down with Diet Coke, for three months....

Sarah Watkinson, managing director of the outsize modelling agency 12 Plus UK, agrees that legislation is needed to protect the health of models — and those aspiring to emulate their favourite catwalk stars....

"... It is vital for schoolgirls who might aspire to look like these models to have a range of size 10, 12 and 14 women to look towards, instead of comparing themselves with women who look starved....

This put me in mind of Judge Kozinski, quoting Boris Yeltsin:

There are places where, until recently, "everything which [was] not permitted [was] forbidden.... [W]hatever [was] permitted [was] mandatory.... Citizens were shackled in their actions by the universal passion for banning things." Yeltsin Addresses RSFSR Congress of People's Deputies, BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, Apr. 1, 1991, available in LEXIS, Nexis Library, OMNI file. Fortunately, the United States is not such a place, and we plan to keep it that way.

Let's hope there are enough Britons who share these views.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. The Universal Passion for Banning Things:
  2. Banning the Skinny:
dearieme:
Mr Blair's government may be our banningest since Cromwell's. Every evening, it seems, his lickspittles on the BBC News announce a "government crackdown" on something-or-other. Although many of these announcements turn out to be mere wind and piss, nonetheless the fascist tom-toms beat out their rhythms.
9.18.2006 7:03pm
Justin (mail):
I pretty much agree with you policywise (and thus will comment little on the merits of your position), but I think you exceed your point by comparing this to Communist Russia. This legislation is akin to something I do support, which is the banning of certain performance-enhancing drugs, to prevent the race to the bottom in competitive sports.

But though this is differentiable, and I don't support it, there is a very long slope, and it is not particularly slippery, to the gulags that Yeltsin's words make so fearful.
9.18.2006 7:07pm
Jeek:
a result of having eaten nothing but green leaves,

Another victim of deadly bagged spinach? =)
9.18.2006 7:15pm
Caliban Darklock:
Combining this with the draft paper from Bryan Caplan "The Economics of Sasz", I got to thinking about something.

Given a teen girl who sees an underweight model and wants to be similarly underweight, Sasz would say she is simply expressing an extreme preference, and I would generally agree. However, society would call her mentally ill, and I would again agree. The question becomes whether society should somehow prevent the girl from indulging her preference, and I would argue yes - because unlike many mental illnesses, this particular one results in actual bodily damage.

Basically, it strikes me that even is Sasz is right, something can still be called a mental illness if its normal operation necessarily results in conditions of ill health.

Just thinking out loud.
9.18.2006 7:31pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Justin: I don't think that Yeltsin was just talking about gulags, which at that point had fortunatelly been abandoned as an item on the Russian public agenda. He was also talking about the bureaucratic (and legally enforced) micromanagement of daily life, especially economic life, that was another hallmark of Soviet life even when the gulags had mostly retreated. The continue of this micromanagement was at least as much of a threat in the 1990s (and perhaps more so) as a revival of the gulags.
9.18.2006 7:38pm
Vovan:

The continue of this micromanagement was at least as much of a threat in the 1990s (and perhaps more so) as a revival of the gulags.


Honest to God professor, I just wish you would have lived in Russia in the 90's - experience the glory of the market, lack of micromanagement and all.
9.18.2006 8:17pm
Justin (mail):
I agree with you that Yeltson wasn't discussing the gulags, but what makes Communist Russia such a threat ("so fearful"), and such a loaded comparison (like Nazis) are Gulags and political killings, not economic micromanagement.

Even accepting that Russian collectivism is the threat we're discussing, and not Russian sociopolitical tyranny, my comment still stands - there's a long way from here to there.
9.18.2006 9:10pm
Randy R. (mail):
Then perhaps a gov't education program to entice the fashion industry into being less fastastical, and the youth to be less lemmings to the fashion industry fantasies?
9.18.2006 9:49pm
David Tomlin (mail):

I used to know an anorexic. It was creepy that the poor girl looked like a skeleton and was always putting herself down for eating too much.

I don't buy that being anorexic is a 'preference' for being 'underweight'. Something a lot more complicated is going on there.

The idea that anorexics are trying to look like models seems me to be undermined by the fact that they don't look like models, but more like concentration camp survivors. Also, they never perceive themselves as attractive no matter how emaciated they become.

There's a fascinating book on the subject, which I think is called Fasting Girls. It mentions that in the Middle Ages there were women who were famous for fasting, which in their cultural context had a religious significance.

Authorities caution against assuming that this phenomenon, about which little is known, is identical to the syndrome now labeled anorexia nervosa. But I suspect it is the same, a deep-rooted aversion to food which the sufferer cannot explain. He/she latches on to the explanation that is socially expected and approved, 'I'm trying to be thin' or 'I'm trying to please God.'
9.18.2006 10:01pm
ReaderY:
Thanks for giving us the skinny on this one.
9.19.2006 1:31am
Lev:
Yeah. It's a good thing the skinny isn't banned here.
9.19.2006 3:07am
NickM (mail) (www):
I'm still trying to figure out who finds these women especially attractive.

Nick
9.19.2006 6:08am
Houston Lawyer:
Does anyone really know the eating habits of these models. When I was young, I could and did consume all the fatty foods I could stuff in my face. It didn't make any difference and I generally looked like a skeleton. Only age has made the difference.

I suggest mandatory exercise for fat people instead of force feeding the thin.

I don't know who finds these skinny models to be attractive. I think they should all be required to look like Victoria's Secrets models.
9.19.2006 11:21am
DeezRightWingNutz:
I. Henceforth, the following shall be banned

(a) Except as provided in Section I(b), ugly women and good looking men.

(b) For purposes of this section, deezrightwingnutz is goodlooking.

(c) Pac-10 football officials.

(d) Except as otherwise provided in Section I(e), nanny-statist, wannabe-facists, paternalists, and nags.

(e) Deezrightwingnutz, who is only looking out for your best interests (honestly!!!), isn't banned.
9.19.2006 1:34pm
Falafalafocus (mail):
Professor,

You post reminds me of a conversation I had with my sister 2 months ago. I have recently begun tending towards libertarianism (from conservatism) and she leans hard towards liberalism. The topic of drug laws came up. I explained that I could be persuaded towards legalization. She opined that we should legalize drugs so that we could then tax it. Not the most persuasive reason to my ears.

But if England truly is considering banning the skinny, why not do it right. As Justin points out, it is a far leap to say that this is like Stalin's gulags or the Nazis. But that's only because England is opting for the less effective but more politically convenient approach of advocating banning of skinny models. Let's cut to the chase and stop this problem now!

I propose that all good and protectivist nations put the skinny people into camps where we can then force them to eat fatty foods until a certain weight, predetermined by the Grand Council of Weight Control, is met. Sounds extreme? Perhaps. But we must young, impressionable children from being exploited at any costs! We should call these facilities "fat camps" and these camps will solve this obvious crisis. Who is with me?!
9.19.2006 1:36pm
DeezRightWingNutz:
BTW...

Houston Lawyer, who is this "Victoria" person? If she has so many secrects, maybe she should be subjected to some "unorthodox" interrogation methods.

I get to be bad cop.
9.19.2006 1:37pm
Falafalafocus (mail):
DeezRightWingNutz,

Your post confuses me. Do you mean to say that I am forever banned from thinking that you are good looking?
9.19.2006 1:39pm
DeezRightWingNutz:
Amendment to Article I of the "Bulemia and Anorexia Nervosa - Now Everyone's Doin'it" Act of 2006.

Section 1(b): For purposes of this section (and this section only, believe you me), Deezrightwingnutz is not good looking.
9.19.2006 1:41pm
Fub:
Falafalafocus wrote:
...[My sister] opined that we should legalize drugs so that we could then tax it. Not the most persuasive reason to my ears. ...

I propose that all good and protectivist nations put the skinny people into camps where we can then force them to eat fatty foods until a certain weight, predetermined by the Grand Council of Weight Control, is met. ...
I'm with your thithter. We thould takth the thin. Fatten them up by thinning their walletth. We could call it "thintax".

Bada-bing!
9.19.2006 1:57pm
Falafalafocus (mail):
Fub,

Nice. So as to give deez a little fat to chew on (pun intended), I vigorously oppose a "thintax". I will fight to my dying day to prevent government from taxing a person for being a loose slab of skin on a set of bones. So long as it's legal, we shouldn't be taxing it out of existence in order to set out some policy preference. (This is obviously my view whether we should, not whether we can).

As to fat camps approach however . . . well, there's a little more give and take (pun also intended).
9.19.2006 2:12pm
Suzy:
Is it okay for, say, a restaurant owner to fire a 16 year old girl if she's 5'9" and weighs 135 pounds on the grounds that she's too fat to be a waitress and the customers will find her unappealing?
9.19.2006 3:38pm
Lev:

5'9" and weighs 135 pounds on the grounds that she's too fat


Fat? Are you nuts?
9.19.2006 8:51pm
Lev:
Houston Lawyer


Does anyone really know the eating habits of these models.


Just as an....intellectual....experiment, rent the movie Sirens, with Sam ONeill, Elle MacPherson and others.

And consider this: the camera provides an optical illusion of adding some 15 or so pounds to the actors, especially the scantily attired females, and Ms. MacPherson, a high fashion model and one of the said scantily clad females, specifically gained 30 pounds for the movie.
9.19.2006 8:56pm
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
[Eugene Volokh wrote:
This put me in mind of Judge Kozinski, quoting Boris Yeltsin:
There are places where, until recently, "everything which [was] not permitted [was] forbidden.... [W]hatever [was] permitted [was] mandatory.... Citizens were shackled in their actions by the universal passion for banning things." Yeltsin Addresses RSFSR Congress of People's Deputies, BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, Apr. 1, 1991, available in LEXIS, Nexis Library, OMNI file. Fortunately, the United States is not such a place, and we plan to keep it that way.


This is, of course, the mirror image of T.H. White's totalitarian principle: "Everything Not Forbidden is Compulsory" ...
9.19.2006 11:03pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

I'm still trying to figure out who finds these women especially attractive.
Those who prefer women who look like very young boys--no breasts, no five o'clock shadow, no muscle. Which also explains why "fashionable" shoes for women seem to be torture devices.

On a more substantive issue, I agree that this is probably not the right way to solve the problem--but the problem is real. Guys, spend some time reading women's fashion magazines, like Glamour. You will see a contradictory mixture of articles about the dangers of bulimia and anorexia and ads filled with these anorexic fashion models. You will read articles about the importance of women having self-esteem--and ads that promote the idea that every woman is ugly unless she buys this dress, or these shoes, or wears this perfume.

If there is a single message that I wish our culture could get across to women it is this: the vast majority of teenaged women, unless they are very overweight, or frighteningly underweight, are attractive to men their age. They can enhance their appearance with appropriate grooming, and good choices of clothing. Good skin care will do wonders for your skin's health and your appearance; the use of spatulas for make-up application is almost always a mistake. A small number of teenaged women may have appearance peculiarities that call for tasteful use of make-up to draw attention away from too large a nose, or some similar unfortunate feature, but these are the exception.

Fashion magazines exist to make young women insecure about their looks--so that their advertisers can sell them stuff that they don't need. It is part of a free market, no doubt, but that is hardly something of which to be proud.
9.19.2006 11:52pm
Lev:
This seems a perfect thread to bring up a favorite....male topic. Breasts. Some years ago, maybe mid 1990's, a newspaper, I think the NYTimes ran a story about some people who did actual physical measurements and tests relating to breast size.

1. women - they asked women a-what was the average cup size of US women, and b-what was the average cup size US men preferred.

a-averaged out at B cup
b-averaged out at C cup

2. men - they asked men what their preferred cup size was for women's breasts.

averaged out at halfway between B and C cup.

3. bra manufacturers - what is the average cup size of US women's breasts as determined by the actual bra sizes that women buy.

averaged out at.......halfway between B and C cup.
9.20.2006 12:22am
Suzy:

5'9" and weighs 135 pounds on the grounds that she's too fat

Fat? Are you nuts?


Too fat to be a runway model, certainly. Yet I don't see anyone mentioning the gulags with respect to that state of affairs. If the govt. in Spain can put on a fashion show, why can't it select models of the appearance it prefers? If some (most) are too fat, why can't some be too thin?
9.20.2006 1:11am
BDK:
In my building there are TVs in the elevators, something called Captivate Network (the name makes me furious). Yesterday it had a poll question asking whether the US should ban "overly skinny models."

The results today were, I believe:

Yes: 96%
No: 4%

Of course, I have no idea what the sample size is, or who responded. Nevertheless, those numbers surprised me. When I saw them I had to look again to make sure I didn't have the numbers backwards.
9.20.2006 12:18pm
Lev:

Too fat to be a runway model, certainly.


Well, yeah. To be a runway model 5'9" and weighs 35 pounds would be about right.
9.21.2006 1:28am