this is france's solution to fashion's retouching addiction

In an effort to curb eating disorders amongst the nation's youth, France is zeroing in on skinny models. But the new legislation has already attracted a fair amount of criticism.

by Hannah Ongley
08 May 2017, 8:10pm

Changes are afoot in France, and not just in Parliament. The nation is about to see the effects of a new law aimed at combatting eating disorders in young people. Come October, fashion magazines and brands will be forced to put a disclaimer on any images that have been retouched. If the prevalence of Photoshop in fashion is any indication, this means the phrase "photographie retouchée" is about to become very familiar. And not just to readers of French glossies. According to WWD, the law applies to print, online, posters, campaigns, and catalogs.

"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. She stressed France's desire "to avoid the promotion of beauty ideals that are inaccessible and to prevent anorexia in young people."

The fight against eating disorders isn't just being waged on behalf of consumers, however. "The objective is also to protect the health of a category of the population particularly affected by this risk: models," the minister said about a bylaw stating that some models will need to provide medical certificates in order to work. That measure was put into effect over the weekend, and has already proven pretty controversial since it was first announced in 2015.

"It's important that the models are healthy," said France's National Union of Modeling Agencies, Isabelle Saint-Felix, "but it's a little simplistic to think there won't be any more anorexics if we get rid of very thin models." 

Much of the backlash against the bylaw stems from its suggestion that BMI — which doesn't account for age or muscle — is an indicator of good health. However the initiative is already having a ripple effect outside of France. Last year, California proposed a similar anti-thinspo law that would require models to provide medical certificates in order to work. As we considered at the time, perhaps we need to be calling for a wider spectrum of visible bodies rather than a narrower one. But at least the issue is being given attention. 


Text Hannah Ongley

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