Case I

Instructions:

In at least and at most 2 pages, using at least a 10pt font, 1 inch margins, and 1.5 line-spacing, write an essay in which you,

  1. Identify as best you can the moral problem(s) posed by the following case from the 2015 Regional Ethics Bowl;
  2. Answer the question, "should minimum and maximum BMI standards for models be instituted?" using whatever reasons you think relevant.
  3. Explain the assumptions you would have to make to apply Cultural Ethical Relativism to answer the question in (2);
  4. Using the Bible as the sacred text in question, explain how Divine Command Theory would answer the question in (2); and,
  5. Explain how the reasons you gave in (2) differ from the reasons you examined in (3) and (4).

Changing Ideals of Beauty #effyourbeautystandards

Tess Holliday (aka Tess Munster) wanted to be a model since she was 15 years old, but she was always told that she was too short and too fat to be a model — even a plus-sized model. But about five years ago, her Model Mayhem profile was discovered by the casting director for an A&E program called Heavy, and she was hired to be the face of the show. It was her first big break. Today, at 29 years old, Holliday is the first model of her size (size 22) and height (5’31⁄2”) to sign with a major modeling agency. In recent months, she has worked with companies such as Torrid, Yours Clothing, and Simply Be.1 Her newfound success has led to much media attention, both positive and negative.

Holliday has become a poster child for the body positivity movement. She started the #effyourbeautystandards campaign to promote body positivity. Though it has taken her many years, she finally feels confident as a plus-sized woman, and she started the camaign to encourage other women to share her confidence: “The goal is to allow other women to feel OK about wearing a bathing suit or pretty lingerie, to feel sexy enough to be in photographs and confident enough to post them online if they want to,” she explains. Obviously this message resonates with a lot of people. More than a million and half Instagram photos have been posted with the hashtag.2 Holliday also has over 826,000 Facebook fans and 645,000 Instagram followers.

But Holliday has also faced criticism for promoting obesity and normalizing unhealthy habits. Her BMI is 42—to put that in perspective, a BMI higher than 30 is considered obese and a BMI higher than 40 is considered morbidly obese. Higher BMIs are associated with higher risk of various diseases, including heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Many believe that Holliday is doing society a disservice by normalizing, even glorifying, a body shape that is a serious health risk.3 As one doctor puts it, “Far from fat being fabulous, it is a public health time bomb.”4

Interestingly, there is some precedent for the idea of banning models that represent an unhealthy ideal. A few countries have gone so far as to ban excessively thin models based on a similar public-health rationale. For example, following the death of model Isabelle Caro due to anorexia, the French legislature approved a bill prohibiting models with a BMI below 18 from working in the fashion industry. If modeling agents break the new law, they could be subject to hefty fines and even face jail time. The French health minister called the new law “an important message to young women who see these models as an aesthetic example.”5 Others have criticized the law as a shift in the right direction but ultimately ineffective: “Just because someone is at a very low BMI doesn’t mean that they have an eating disorder, and just because someone’s in the normal range or even in the high range of BMI doesn’t mean that they don’t have an eating disorder either.”6

As for Tess Holliday, she responds to her critics by pointing out that she is happy, healthy, and enjoys working out. She doesn’t smoke, and barely drinks.7 Indeed, BMI alone is a poor measurement of a person’s health.8 But Holliday also maintains that health is a personal choice, and that body acceptance should not depend on health.9 She explains, “We all have issues with our bodies. There’s something about all of us that we wish we could change. If it’s something you can work on, then do it. If not, accept it and that’s beautiful.”10 Body advocate Jess Baker agrees, taking the message even further: “body love is not just for fat people, it’s for every person imaginable. Everyone has the right to self-love: skinny people. Fat people. Short people. Tall people. All abilities. All sizes. All shapes. All shades. All sexes. All genders. Haters and lovers alike.”11

  1. Amanda Shapiro, Tess Holliday Is The Biggest Thing To Ever Happen To Modeling, Buzzfeed, May 14, 2015, http://www.buzzfeed.com/ashapiro009/tess-holliday-plus-size-model#.ppqr…
  2. Tess Holliday, Size-22 model: Why I love my body and want other women to love theirs, Today, April 7, 2015, http://www.today.com/style/model-tess-holliday-body-image-confidence-lo…
  3. Tess Holliday—Body Positivity or Promoting Unhealthy Lifestyle? PopDust, June 14,2015, http://popdust.com/2015/06/14/tess-holliday-body-positivity-or-promotin…; National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute, Assessing Your Weight and Health Risk, http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/risk.htm (last accessed June 13, 2015); Carolyn Hall, 6 Things I Don’t Understand About the Fat Acceptance Movement, Thought Catalog, April 22, 2014, http://thoughtcatalog.com/carolyn-hall/2014/04/6-things-i-dont-understa…; Laura Connor, Tess Holliday: Calls for Simply Be plus-size social media campaign to be BANNED because ‘being fat is life-threatening,’ Mirror, June 8, 2015, http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/tess-holliday-calls-simply-plus-si…
  4. Dr. Sarah Burnett, The Cynical Lie that “Fat is Fabulous” and Why Plus Size Bloggers should Never be Considered Role Models for Young Women, The Telegraph, April 23, 2015, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/11554755/The-cynical-lie-that-fa…
  5. Laura Stampler, France Just Banned Ultra-Thin Models, TIME, April 3, 2015, http://time.com/3770696/france-banned-ultra-thin-models/
  6. Alex Villarreal, Banning Too-Thin Models: Right Move, Wrong Approach, Say Experts, Voice of America, April 3, 2015
  7. Lina Lecaro, Tess Holliday Is Challenging Our Concept of Beauty, LA Weekly, May 16, 2015, http://www.laweekly.com/arts/tess-holliday-is-challenging-our-concept-o…; Plus-Size Model to Critics: Get a Hobby, CNN, January 28, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/videos/health/2015/01/28/bts-tds-intv-plus-size-mode…; see also Chrystal Bougon, It’s OK To Be Fat. Go Ahead. You’re Allowed. Huff Post Women, May 16, 2015, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chrystal-bougon/its-ok-to-be-fat-go-ahead…
  8. Peter Janiszewski, Ph.D., Why the Body Mass Index (BMI) is a Poor Measure of Your Health, Obesity Panacea, February 10, 2012, http://blogs.plos.org/obesitypanacea/2012/02/10/why-the-body-mass-index…
  9. Lecaro, supra; Plus-Size Model to Critics, supra; Bougon, supra.
  10. Emily Sher, Plus-Size Model Makes History, Leads Positive Body Image Campaign, Today, January 29, 2015, http://www.today.com/health/plus-size-model-tess-holliday-makes-history…
  11. Jes Baker, Why People Hate Tess Munster (And Other Happy Fat People), The Militant Baker, January 28, 2015, http://www.themilitantbaker.com/2015/01/why-people-hate-tess-munster-an…