Great to see eating disorders are no longer in vogue
According to the Mission Australia Youth Survey released in September last year, body image ranks in the top three issues of concern for young Australians.
Research shows 90% of 12-17 year old girls and 68% of 12 – 17 year old boys have been on a diet of some type, and that bulimia and anorexia are among the top ten causes of burden of disease and injury in young women in Australia.
So in announcing The Health Initiative this week, Vogue’s editors have shown not just that they understand the powerful influence their magazines and the wider fashion industry wields over the public’s ideas about what a normal body looks like, but also that they are prepared to show leadership and a degree of corporate social responsibility in their industry.
Their commitment includes a promise not to knowingly work with models under the age of 16, or those who appear to have an eating disorder, to encourage producers to create healthy backstage environments, to ask designers to consider the consequences of using tiny sample sizes, and importantly, to structure mentoring programs for older, more experienced models to give guidance and advice to younger models.
This indicates a real industry-driven move towards best practice by Conde Nast, and I congratulate them on it.
Vogue Australia has taken a lead in its recent issues, by profiling models like Robyn Lawley, who don’t project the typical ‘skinny’ image. Other magazines in Australia have long had pages profiling, ‘vox-pop’ style, the ensembles of women they have canvassed on the street, at work or at university.
Franca Sozzani, the Vogue Italia editor, has campaigned for the use of larger models and bigger bodies in print, and has put her money where her mouth is in her magazine. Last month she delivered a lecture on the issue at Harvard University.
She said: ‘According to numerous psychiatrists, in fact, the current inclination to embrace a female beauty standard that exalts thinness has devastating consequences on many adolescents’ eating habits. And this is where fashion comes into play, alongside models, fashion magazines and everything regarding aesthetics. What lead us to establish that thin is beautiful and that thinness is the aesthetic code we should follow?’
There is nothing we can do to alter our genetic makeup – whether we’re short, tall, built like a ballerina or a brickhouse; whether we have green eyes and freckles or we’re knock-kneed. Diversity is what makes each of us individuals – imagine how dull the world would be if we were all the same! This initiative will help celebrate a less homogeneous ideal of what constitutes beauty.
Former Minister for the Status of Women Kate Ellis’ National Advisory Group on Body Image, appointed in 2009, and the resulting Voluntary Industry Code of Conduct, achieved few tangible outcomes, and demonstrated why it is so important that industry itself takes the lead on this.
I hope The Health Initiative is the first move in a cultural change in the fashion industry and that the 19 editors of Vogue magazines continue to recognise that ‘there are many different types of body which are healthy’ - and beautiful.
I am also hopeful that other publishing houses and the wider fashion industry including retailers, designers, advertisers and model bookers follow Conde Nast’s lead and adopt their initiative, as the potential to create positive change is enormous.
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