Feminism | Posted by Talia on 01/25/2013

Israel’s “Photoshop Law”

Israel's Photoshop Law -- works to prevent images like this one

As of January 1, what the media has dubbed the “Photoshop Law” has gone into effect in Israel. This law mandates that models working in Israel have to have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of at least 18.5, the lowest healthy BMI possible, and companies have to clearly label advertisements containing pictures that were even slightly Photoshopped. Foreign ads must also comply. Considering 10% of teenagers in Israel suffer from eating disorders and anorexia is the number-one killer in the 15-24 age group, this law was sorely needed.

Rachel Adato, the sponsor of the bill, has been very involved in women’s health throughout her career. She served as the Chairperson of the National Council for Women’s Health and Advisor to the Minister of Health on Women’s Health, and was a member of the Steering Committees for Prevention of Violence Towards Women and Establishing Medical Centers for Victims of Sexual Assault, as well as a member in four delegations to the UN on women’s health.

Adato and Adi Barkan, a prominent Israeli photographer and agent, worked on writing the law together. I really commend Barkan for spending time and effort on this law. As a member of the fashion industry, he could suffer professionally, so it’s really heartwarming that he decided to bench his personal interests on behalf of young women’s welfare.

Thankfully, the law was passed by a large majority in the Knesset. I’m confident that this law will, if not completely solve the issue, begin to improve the situation. Hundreds of studies have shown a correlation between eating disorders among teenage girls and images of hyper-skinny models with completely flawless skin, teeth, and hair in the media. Although ads and commercials will still be showing heavily made up models who are very thin (but still have a healthy BMI), it’s important that these images aren’t completely unrealistic.

I think it’s excellent that Israel is really dedicating itself to fixing this overly-prevalent issue. I wish that the United States would pass similar legislation, but it’s doubtful that such a bill, if ever proposed, would meet with any success. Donald Downs, a University of Wisconsin professor and First Amendment expert, said that a Photoshop law like Israel’s “would be in tension with American cultural support for free speech in cases in which the harm is not direct or clear. We are much more wary of giving the state the power to prohibit expression in such contexts because the harm is not usually direct.”

Magazines have shown that they’re not going to voluntarily label digitally-altered photos and ensure the models they portray are healthy: in May, when a teenage girl petitioned Seventeen to stop using Photoshop, the magazine celebrated her efforts but did nothing in response. Seventeen has made it clear that the only way they’ll stop abusing Photoshop is if they must. It’s clear that America needs legislation. I just wish it could be a reality.

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  • Links Round-Up « ShoutOut! JMU @ at 8:01 am, January 27th, 2013

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  • sandman @ at 10:30 am, January 31st, 2013

    slowly but surely, the governments of the world will eventually pass enough legislation to control what we do. freedom of speech is being infringed upon here

  • Cindy @ at 7:29 pm, February 15th, 2013

    ^ Democracy is all about government for the people, by the people. If a majority of the people believe something is harmful to society at large and it should be restricted, then why not? Isn’t that what laws are for? Honestly, you can say centuries ago that banning stoning alleged witches was an “infringement of our moral rights” or that banning slavery was an “infringement of our right to do what we want with our property”. Seriously? If it’s pretty clear that photoshopped images are damaging the health and self-esteem of young girls, and the people WANT it to be regulated, then that’s what the government’s FOR.

  • Amanda @ at 8:00 pm, March 7th, 2013

    Hi there!

    This is an amazing post, I think the issue is so important not only for young girls in Israel but also for young girls around the world. This message also will have an affect on men and their idea of how the female should look as well, which also has a critical impact on how females view themselves.

    I am the Project Coordinator for the blog at Americans for Informed Democracy (AIDemocracy). We are a youth led network working towards empowering other youth to be more active and educated in global issues. We also promote their involvement as advocates and leaders locally, nationally and globally.

    In honor of International Women’s Day, we are hosting our first blog carnival and I would like to request your permission to repost your blog during the carnival. The carnival will begin tomorrow (Women’s day) and continue through Wednesday of next week. I realize this is extremely short notice, so I understand if you do not have the time to respond. If you are interested, please let me know at amanda@aidemocracy.org . I believe your blog is perfect for our readers, especially as the majority are youth and facing some of the issues you discussed.

    Thank you!

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