In France, models deemed too thin to be healthy are now banned from advertising campaigns and on the runway. The law, which legislators approved in 2015, went into effect in May 2017, and aims to minimize the promotion of unrealistic body standards as part of the ongoing fight against eating disorders.
“Exposing young people to normative and unrealistic images of bodies leads to a sense of self-depreciation and poor self-esteem that can impact health-related behavior,” said France’s Minister of Social Affairs and Health, Marisol Touraine.
“[This law aims] to act on body image in society to avoid the promotion of inaccessible beauty ideals and to prevent anorexia in young people. The objective is also to protect the health of a sector of the population particularly at risk – models.”
Models will be required to provide a doctor’s certificate attesting to their overall physical health, with special regard given to their body mass index (BMI), a measure of weight in relation to height, as weight alone doesn’t provide an accurate assessment of health, especially among very tall models. Digitally altered photos will also need to labeled photographie retouchée (“retouched photograph”) so that viewers will understand that some images are not just unrealistic, but unreal. Employers breaking the law could face fines of up to $82,000 and up to six months in jail.
Not everyone supports the legislation. Some critics point out that not all extremely thin people suffer from disease.
“When you look at the criteria behind anorexia, you can’t look only at the body mass index when other criteria are also involved: psychological, a history of hair loss, dental problems,” Isabelle Saint-Felix, the head of France’s National Union of Modeling Agencies, said. “It’s important that the models are healthy, but it’s a little simplistic to think there won’t be any more anorexics if we get rid of very thin models.”
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