Saturday, 4 April 2015

Promoting Excessive Thinness or Anorexia in Fashion Industry Now a Crime in France

The Lower House of Parliament's Socialist Majority Party in France voted and passed legislation today aimed at excessively thin fashion models and their agents.

Image by Himhimkwan [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Promoting Excessive Thinness or Anorexia in Fashion Industry Now a Crime in France

by Sally Bartlett - 04/04/2015

The new law can fine or imprison both individuals and websites who are promoting, encouraging or requiring excessive thinness. This is interpreted as anyone with a body mass index (BMI) under 18 or weighing less than 121 pounds for a height of 67 inches. This will apply immediately to agencies on hiring models, with follow up checks several weeks after hiring.

Fines up to $100,000 may be imposed depending on severity of the crime and up to 1 year in prison, although smaller sentences of 6 months in jail will probably be more common as the new law is absorbed into the fashion industry. France is following the lead of a similar law in Israel passed in 2013. Italy and Spain, although against anorexia and programs promoting models to be too thin, rely more on codes of proper conduct.

French president Francois Hollande and his lawmakers are also targeting photographers who retouch photos. Any photos that are retouched now must declare full disclosure of that procedure. The new law states: "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".

In 2010, fashion model Isabelle Caro died from anorexia at age 28, but had allowed herself to be photographed for a campaign to increase awareness before her death. Do you agree with the law, or deem it discrimination?

Image by daniellehelm [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Eating Disorders, Fashion, and the Right to Work
by E. Margareta Griffith - 19/03/2015

Anorexia nervosa is a terrible disease. For a mental health condition, it has a high death rate. It is difficult to manage, nearly impossible to cure completely, and even when it does not kill it damages major internal organs, bones, and quality of life. It is becoming more prevalent, and many theorize it has a social component in that it feeds on extreme, unhealthy standards of feminine beauty. Many blame the rising rate of this disease on the fashion industry and its preference for extremely thin models.

One of these is Olivier Véran, French legislator. He has proposed outlawing hiring any model with a body mass index of less than eighteen and backing up the law with serious fines and even the possibility of prison. In Italy, Spain, and Israel the government discourages hiring of thin models, although not to the extent of imposing harsh penalties on those who hire thin models. The hope is that when thin is not considered glamorous, young women will not diet themselves into a serious mental illness. It makes about as much sense as refusing to glamorize suicide by covering up incidents, but logic seldom gets in the way of politicians seeking public notice.

The law is nothing more than discrimination. Some may argue that the law seeks to restrict not human beings seeking modeling jobs, but the image of thin as glamorous. Certainly no one would mistake a seriously ill anorexic, with rough, easily bruised skin, edema, loss of muscle tone, thin and brittle hair, and sunken features with beauty. When the disease is at its most serious it is nearly impossible for a person to work. However, like anyone with a physical or mental illness, a person with anorexia has a right to compete for and do any job she can. If she is underweight, has poor eating habits, or other issues is beside the point as long as she can do the job. This applies not only for work out of the public view, but to work where other aspects of her character might allow her to be a role model for young women.
Not every thin woman has anorexia nervosa. Some people simply are thin, for no particular reason. Others may be coping with malabsorbtion diseases, cancer, or any number of other conditions. Should they also be deprived of the right to compete for modeling jobs because they don't conform to what the government sees as a healthy image? Will we soon be banning people who do not look sufficiently healthy from leading youth groups, teaching, acting, or even being seen in public for fear young girls will emulate them? This is a reductio ad absurdum, yes, but the law is in and of itself absurd.

Recently, the fashion industry has been taking small steps toward making clothes for women of all sizes and selling them through models with a wider range of body types. None of this has been achieved by banning certain body types. Whatever combination of nature, nurture, and challenges contribute to a woman's health and appearance, if she can patiently pose for the camera, project a positive image, and “sell” the clothes she's modeling, she is qualified to be a model.