On April 3, France passed a bill that bans using fashion models who have a body mass index under 18, approximately 121 pounds for a 5 ft., 7 in. model. The bill is the latest piece of legislation aiming to ban anorexia from the fashion industry. Companies who now employ models that do not meet the new requirement could result to jail time and a fine of 75.000 euros.
According to French Health minister Marisol Touraine, the law aims not only to protect the health of the models, but also the youth of France that looks up to unrealistic body standards. In France alone, an estimated 40,000 people currently suffer from anorexia; about 90% of them are adolescents. Lawmakers also made it illegal to digital retouch body weight, unless there is a message that states the photos have been manipulated. The bill will also punish websites that promote unhealthy weight loss and glorify eating disorders. People posting information on pro anorexia and bulimia sites could now be fined up to 10.000 euros.
Opinions, however, differ throughout France. The opposition claims that the law confuses anorexia, a severe mental illness, with the slimness of models and that the government should not be policing women’s bodies. A body mass index of less than 18 does not mean that someone suffers from an eating disorder. Some models are naturally tall and skinny; the government should not punish them by preventing models from working.
Though the World Health Organization considers people with a BMI of 18.5 to be underweight and at risk of being malnourished, many are in favor of the bill think that this is a great start to a long battle. Young people, especially girls, are exposed to unrealistic body images and this in turn leads to dissatisfaction and negative thoughts about their own bodies. These changes could hopefully prevent young adolescents from developing depression, extreme dieting and exercising, and eating disorders.
While there are a few countries such as Italy, Spain, and Israel that have passed similar laws this past year, France could have the largest impact out of all of them. With its fashion and luxury industries worth billions of euros every year, the bill has gotten attention worldwide. Though there is still a long way to go, these amendments send a powerful message from the capital of fashion with high hopes that other nations will adapt similar laws.
Many people are finally realizing that you do not have to be a certain shape or size to be considered beautiful or “good enough”. And like this new legislation reflects, if the fashion industry itself is not willing to reflect the progress we are making as human beings, governments will intervene on its behalf.
Severe malnutrition and eating disorders should never be considered fashionable. If you or someone you know suffers from an eating disorder, please contact 1-800-931-2237.
By: Bo Wester (The Dia Diaries Fashion Contributor)
Chandia Brennen is a Certified Image Consultant and CEO of ItsGood2bME Fashion Consulting and Image Management based in Los Angeles CA, Chandia has been in the Fashion industry for over four years. She has worked for dozens of publications and holds the title of Senior Fashion Editor in both LA and NY. Chandia is a fashion scout for a Design Agency in NY and Brand Ambassador for HairEverywhere Luxury.