A coroner examining the tragic case of Fiona Geraghty, the 14-year-old girl who committed suicide after being taunted by classmates about her weight, has identified a new culprit in the tragic story: the fashion industry.
Coroner Michael Rose has blamed the industry's promotion of waif thin models for causing girls like Fiona to have a distorted body image, claiming that the prevalence of eating disorders "did not exist before the 1970s" when fashion magazines began promoting ever-dwindling figures. Fiona had been suffering from bulimia when her father discovered her hanged in their UK home last July.
The verdict places the fashion industry under a critical microscope yet again for the prevalence of models with an unhealthy BMI. Rose asked for magazines to be more aware of their influence:
I do ask, particularly the magazines in the fashion industry, to stop publishing photographs of wafer-thin girls. One magazine, I believe Vogue, has recently taken the decision not to do so. I do implore it, because at the end of the day for their benefit, families like this must suffer. It is, I am afraid, an increasing problem and until they control themselves it will continue.
His comments come on the heels of Vogue's "Health Initiative," which states that 19 of their global editions have agreed to only "work with models who, in [their] view, are healthy and help to promote a healthy body image."
Rose also added that the internet had opened a Pandora's Box that "no one knows how to close." Much of the "thinspiration" movement has taken place on image-based sites where people can share photos of fashion editorials that feature sickly-thin models. Both Instagram and Pinterest have recently banned this type of content on their sites.
The coroner's statements in this case raise many issues about the industry's standards of beauty despite public efforts by insiders to ensure that models are both healthy and of-age. Models have become simultaneously thinner and younger, and teenage girls are particularly vulnerable to the emotional repercussions of this aesthetic. Fiona's mother, GP Dr Elspeth Geraghty, told the hearing, "Fiona appeared to have a real fear of puberty and the fear of growing into a woman. Fiona had a very poor body image."
Do you think the fashion industry is to blame for this heartbreaking incident? Tell us in the comments section below.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Below, some plus size models who we hope will help change the fashion industry's standards.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post incorrectly quoted Vogue's "Health Initiative" as saying it would not hire models that promote a healthy body image. The opposite is the case.