This kind of legislation would bring
France into line with countries such as Israel, Italy and Spain where super-skinny
models were banned from catwalks in 2013.
The French Parliament is considering
publishing minimum weights for models and girls who work as models. Any French
fashion house or modelling agency that employs models that are too skinny, with
a BMI of less than 18, would be fined to the tune of about approximately
$80,000 (almost R1 million) or prison time of up to 6 months.
The champion of this proposal is Olivier
Véran, a neurologist and member of the National Assembly (lower house) of the
French Parliament. Véran estimates that up to 40,000 people in France are
victims of anorexia, with young women, making up the majority of cases. It is
important to keep in mind that anorexia among young male models is also on the
rise as fashion houses demand more and more that models of both sexes have
androgynous, emaciated figures.
The question is of course if France, regarded
as the “Fashion Capital of the World” and the “Arbiter of Chic”, will ever
concede that the images of men and women they project, reduce human beings to
clothes hangers. Will fashion houses and modelling agencies ever allow their
models to look like real women and men? I somehow doubt it.
The whole purpose
of a model is to show off the clothes, to be part of the background, to not
draw attention away from the garment. Unless you are one of the top models of
the day, no one will know your name or care if you fade away – like Isabelle
Read: Dangerously thin: how models torture themselves
The Isabelle Caro case was deeply shocking
to anyone who cares about the health and well-being of women. She was a French
model and actress who died of anorexia in November 2010 at the age of 28. Photos
of her emaciated body were used to try and persuade the fashion industry to
stop using ultra-thin models in the “No Anorexia” campaign.
A number of other
models have died from anorexia, but nearly 5 years have gone by with no change
in the appearance of the models used in France. Hence the renewed call for
French legislation to set model weight standards for the fashion industry and
ban “pro-anorexia” websites.
The National Union of Modelling Agencies
in France has reacted to the proposed legislation by protesting that their
members already voluntarily stick to a charter that “discourages the use of
anorexic models”, approved by the government in 2008.
However, the fact that
newspapers such as the New York Times were unable to get comments from any of
the leading model agencies in France on this matter, seems to indicate that the
agencies do not relish the latest proposed legislation.
make a difference?
Some French psychiatrists have expressed
doubt that making rules regarding the weight of models is not going to stop the
wave of eating disorders, particularly anorexia, which is sweeping the Western
world. According to Rubin’s report in the New York Times (March 18, 2015), Dr Marie Rose Moro, a French child psychiatrist, is
of the opinion that legislating to have a few models weigh a bit more cannot
stop what she calls “the transnational sort of tyranny of thinness”.
Read: Is pregnant glamour model Sarah Stage too thin?
current obsession with obesity and the imperative to lose weight in the Western
world, there is the negative spin-off that having a rounded figure is regarded
as self-indulgent, weak-willed and ugly.
Social media such as the internet and
Twitter are fuelling the frenzy to become anorexic. Other manifestations of
this lemming-like drive to starve oneself to death are the “pro-ana” bracelets
worn by many young people to show that they are “proud to be anorexic”, “proud
to have an eating disorder”, or “proud to stick to their diet”.
terrifying ideas which underline how severe the psychiatric symptoms are that
form part of major eating disorders: self-destruct at any cost, even if means
losing your life.
It would appear that the underlying drive
to strip the body of its fat, flesh and persona is not well understood, but
from one look at the current ideals of beauty that dominate in the media, it is
evident that super-thin is the ideal – with concave stomachs and a gap between
the legs (thigh gap) – which fashion houses in many countries, including South
Africa, strive for.
Read: US girls obsessed with 'thigh gap'
“Seeing is believing” is no longer true!
The presenter on Sky News pointed out how important it is to make young people
realise to what extent photo manipulation/airbrushing/photo-shopping is used to
enhance the images of famous people.
A clever media manipulator can literally
turn an ugly duckling into a swan, a very slender swan! Reality does not live
in these manipulated images, and there is no way that you, as an individual,
can force your appearance to equal these manipulated images by starving or
abusing your body. Why die trying to achieve something that is fake anyway?
Concerted efforts to curb the use of
manipulated images in the media (newspapers, magazines, the Internet, TV and
movies), together with a serious campaign to educate our youth about healthy
eating, may go a long way towards changing perceptions of what is beautiful.
And perhaps one day robots will be able to
take over on the catwalks, so that starving oneself for the ideal of beauty
will become less attractive to our youth.
Websites promote anorexia, bulimia
Dying to be thin
Stiff penalties for pro-ana sites
- CBS News (2015). France likely to ban
super-skinny models. Published on 17 March 2015.
- Rubin AJ (2015). French Parliament debates
weight standards for fashion models. Published on 18 March 2015.
Image: Anorexic teenage girl from Shutterstock
Dr Ingrid van Heerden is a registered dietician and holds a doctoral degree in Nutrition and Biochemistry. She believes that "we are what we eat" and offers free nutrition and weight loss advice via her DietDoc service on Health24.com. Read more of her articles.