Are Teenagers Better At Solving The Thin Model Problem Than "Vogue" Editors?

As one 14-year-old led a well-publicized protest outside Seventeen magazine’s offices, 19 Vogue editors drafted an apparently meaningless “Health Initiative.”

An April editorial in French Vogue.

Editors of 19 international editions of Vogue, including the American one, have banded together to form a “Health Initiative” — basically a pledge to curb the unhealthy effects the beautification of thinness might have on high fashion models and, presumably, the people who look at them. But like many of the fashion industry’s attempts to show they care about this issue, it felt like theater instead of an actual solution.

The Health Initiative is the latest in a string of an awful lot of recent attempts to make the “too thin” stuff go away. Pinterest and Instagram have banned “thinspo.” Italian Vogue’s editor-in-chief spoke at Harvard about eating disorders, largely to deflect the blame from the people like herself who run the fashion industry and unrelentingly hire the “too thin” models.

The initiative includes six points that say that Vogue editors will not “knowingly work with models under the age of 16 or who appear to have an eating disorder.” And they will “ask agents not to knowingly send us underage girls and casting directors to check IDs when casting shoots, shows and campaigns.” And they will “encourage designers to consider the consequences of unrealistically small sample sizes of their clothing, which limits the range of women who can be photographed in their clothes, and encourages the use of extremely thin models.” And they’ll make sure models have mentors, and don’t have to work too late, the list goes uninterestingly on.

This is not the first high profile “initiative” that has been created to try to make sure models don’t have eating disorders and aren’t too young to be working (as in, age 13 or 14). The Council of Fashion Designers of America also created a “Health Initiative” in 2007 to encourage designers to hire healthy models. But none of these pledges or initiatives are laws with legal implications — they’re just promises.

What kills me about all these initiatives and protests and guidelines is that they’re necessary in the first place. Isn’t it insane, when you think about it? That models are so disturbingly thin and making women around the world feel so bad about their bodies that the industry has to put on this great a show of self-regulation? And any time a model comes along who isn’t a size zero or two, everyone who cares about this stuff and follows fashion practically shoots off fireworks in celebration that a “plus-size” girl finally made it??

From a February 2012 Italian Vogue editorial.

But the Vogue editors needn’t have bothered with an “initiative” to curb the exposure of thin models in their pages. I don’t need them to tell me they won’t knowingly hire a model with an eating disorder, or knowingly hire a 14-year-old, or encourage designers to consider the damaging results of making very tiny clothing samples. Frankly, did they really need to write all that DOWN? And also, who cares what they intend to do? Just show me you care about this already!

Extremely thin girls have been the ideal in fashion for years — and this may be the most pushback against the super thin movement we’ve seen in a decade. So if you really are sick of it, Vogue editors, actually do something about it. Stop talking about it, stop drawing up toothless guidelines that fit into tidy press releases, and just change it. Don’t call in the tiny clothing samples for shoots. Don’t hire girls who are so thin you wonder if they have eating disorders. Don’t only shoot Adele from the neck up. And don’t talk about it. Don’t write it down. Just do it.

Like 14-year-old Julia Bluhm, from Maine, did yesterday, when she led a protest outside of Seventeen magazine’s New York office to try get the editors to feature one spread a month that features girls with a realistic appearance, who aren’t photoshopped. (She gained entré to the Seventeen editor’s office to discuss her concerns, but the magazine would not say if they would start meeting Bluhm’s painfully reasonable demands.) She did it. She up and went to New York one day, with her friends, with her 24,000 signature-strong petition in support of her cause, and just did what she needed to do.

You, fashion industry, can do the same.

I promise you: you’ll sell more magazines.

Leanne Italie / AP

Julia Bluhm (center) and friends.

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