It’s no secret that Vogue hasn’t exactly been a leader in the effort toward pushing for more body-positive, healthy portrayals of the female body in the media and fashion industry; though, perhaps more frustrating than the absence of effort has been the fashion icon’s piecemeal attempts to do good, without actually doing anything significant. But today, New York Magazine reports, all of Vogue‘s 19 international editions have banded together under something called the “Health Initiative.” I really, really want to believe that this is going to matter–but you’ll forgive me if I’m skeptical.
Previously, the various international editions have skirted the issue, playing up relatively insignificant moves, like side-of-the-mouth protests against pro-ana websites and strongly-worded (but actionless) letters to designers about “size zeros.” Meanwhile, stateside, the magazine does what all women’s magazines do: once every year or so, they feature a single curvacious woman (like Adele) on the cover, call it a “health issue,” and accept applause all the world falls at the magazine’s feet with praise…meanwhile, the inner pages are still loaded with super-slender 14-year-olds desperately trying to fend off puberty with a restricted diet, and the images of the aforementioned plus-size woman are edited within an inch of their lives. But this initiative feels, at least tentatively, different.
Here are some of the points, from the press release:
-We will not knowingly work with models under the age of 16 or who appear to have an eating disorder. We will work with models who, in our view, are healthy and help to promote a healthy body image.
-We will encourage producers to create healthy backstage working conditions, including healthy food options and a respect for privacy. We will encourage casting agents not to keep models unreasonably late.
-We 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.
-We will be ambassadors for the message of healthy body image.
Oh, how I want to believe.
As New York Magazine astutely points out, the pact is pretty vague–and doesn’t appear to offer any actual consequences or recourse for designers, photographers, or other affiliates who do, in fact, continue to promote unhealthy working conditions and expectations for models. But it’s a start. It’s more of a start than we’ve seen in a while.
Which I think is what’s important to focus on. Vogue is so influential in the fashion world, and if they do, truly begin to stand for healthy body image, there’s a chance that advertisers, designers, and others working within in the industry may actually follow suit. Could this be the dawn of a new Vogue era?
For the love of self-esteem, I hope so.