I think we can all admit that, chances are, we don’t look like catwalk models and perhaps they, along with barbie dolls, are detrimental to our young women’s self identity – believing that they don’t weigh up, or down quite right. So what can we do about it?
French parliament got proactive last week by officially banning the use of ultra-thin models. The bill declares “the activity of model is banned for any person whose Body Mass Index (BMI) is lower than levels proposed by health authorities and decreed by the ministers of health and labor.” The BMI proposed is a minimum of 18 and people employing models under this size could face six months in prison and a fine of €75,000. An adult with a BMI under 18.5 is considered underweight, while an average model meauring 1.75m and weighing 50kg has a BMI of 16.
In its current form these measures would ban some of fashions biggest names from the runway including Miranda Kerr, Gisele Bündchen and Elle MacPherson.
An added stipulation adds another fine where there is a failure to state when photos have been retouched. This will incur a fine of €37,500 or up to 30% of the amount spent on the advertising featuring the model.
It’s very serious to conflate anorexia with the thinness of models and it ignores the fact that anorexia is a psychogenic illness
French Modeling agencies aren’t overly pleased with these new laws, saying that it puts thinness and anorexia into the same box. “It’s very serious to conflate anorexia with the thinness of models and it ignores the fact that anorexia is a psychogenic illness,” stated Isabelle Saint-Felix, secretary general of Synam.
Currently New Zealand has no such bills proposed although Ms L’Estrange-Corbet, the co-founder of World, sees this as a step in the right direction. “It’s a start of something that will be taken on by other countries…but we don’t have that problem here” she told Breakfast.
It might be a little simplistic to say that these laws will help the 40,000 people in France who suffer from anorexia (90% of whom are women) as it’s a complicated issue that won’t just go away by banning thinness from the media. It is however another interesting development in the ongoing cultural shift that’s taking place around body image.