Yesterday I touched upon Size 0 models (a memory that will live with me forever!).
Today, Tristan has noted and condemned the Liberal Democrats London Assembly motion on this issue. He writes inter alia “Size zero models are not causing direct harm to others [so] it is not government’s place to force restrictions upon them…”
I think the counter-argument is that the modelling industry is causing harm to women and particularly to teenage girls by socialising them to believe that a distorted parody of the natural human physique is an ideal-type to which they should aspire.
Implicit in this argument is the assumption that women, and particularly teenage girls (“Won’t somebody please think of the children”), are too stupid to make an informed judgement and too easily influenced by corporate imagery to be trusted to care for their own health. There follows the classic argument for censorship: the people are stupid, so must be protected from themselves.
It seems ironic to me that a nation that spends a historically-unprecedented amount of time agonising over obesity should also think that we are in danger of starving ourselves to death. Perhaps (radical suggestion, I know!) people are making their own decisions based on a multiplicity of information and imagery. Should we control all information, vetting it to ensure it promotes only a benign or (in our opinion) positive image?
Even if it is true that the existence or prominence of “Size 0” (actually Size 4) models adversely influences people’s behaviour (which has in no way been proven), it is still not government’s role to protect individuals from their own actions. The state’s role is to protect people from being coerced by other people; to allow the individual the maximum freedom that does not restrict the freedom of others. If an individual leads an unhealthy lifestyle, the government should not interfere to make them more healthy. We would not countenance force feeding or forced exercise, and I hope that we would not ban tobacco. Similarly, we should not ban images of thin models, people sitting on their sofas eating chips, or smokers (a ludicrous suggestion, I’m sure you’ll agree).
This is a classic censorship issue, an attack on freedom of expression masked as a (paternalistic) effort to protect individuals from themselves. It is a shame that our London Assembly members support it.