The New York Times’ Eric Wilson recently reported that Vogue magazine will institute a new policy in which it agrees to stop using models under 16 years of age and models “who, from the viewpoint of the editors, appear to have an eating disorder.” The change, which will apply to all of its 19 international editions, is being done, according to Jonathan Newhouse (Chairman of parent company Condé Nast International) to “reflect their commitment to the health of the models who appear on the pages and the well-being of their readers.”
Wow. I did not see that coming. I’ve shown Jean Kilbourn’s Killing Us Softly in my classes for years, and not a student has ever expressed optimism that publishers or advertisers had the stomach to change.
As Libby Copeland put it at Slate:
But what’s remarkable about this announcement, even in the absence of seeing the June issue of Vogue, is that it represents a portion of the fashion industry taking responsibility for its power. It amounts to an acknowledgement that fashion editors are influential not just for their assessments of what shoes are beautiful, but for their assessments of what bodies should look like. This is rare.
Which is an understatement. It is worth clicking over to read the 6 points of their agreement, which focuses on creating a healthy climate for women throughout the process, including mentorship of models, good atmosphere at shoots, practices of designers, and healthy body image overall.
It has always struck me as strange—perhaps simply disingenuous—that advertisers can simultaneously (a) claim that ads don’t effect the way that people think about themselves, and (b) pour money into campaigns because they effect the way that people think about their products. Ads either work or they don’t. You can’t have it both ways. Either Vogue is a influential leader in the fashion world or it is not. Can’t have it both ways.
Good to see Vogue is finally stepping up and admitting the logic of reality.