France cracks down on super skinny models


Clarion photo Vanity Fair photo.

France is a breeding ground for the fashion industry, hosting massive fashion shows and producing the most sought-after couture in the world. The country also has one of the highest rates of anorexia in women in Europe, with 30,000 to 40,000 people suffering from the illness.

Modeling is an industry known for showcasing thin, pretty faces, creating an image of what society says the perfect woman should look like. But most models are thinner than 98 percent of American women, meaning that the face of feminine beauty is a reality that woman can’t achieve without having an eating disorder.

So how do models get so skinny? Granted there is a helpful thing called genetics–which determines how our bodies look–whether skinny, or curvy, or in between. Eating disorders are, sadly, a popular way for models to keep their weight down on the runway.

Italy, Spain, and Israel already have bans against agencies which promote anorexia in models and who hire models with eating disorders, and it looks like France will be following suit. The proposed legislation will require models to have a body mass index (BMI) of 18–the threshold between underweight and healthy weight–to be hired. In addition, models would be subjected to routine weigh-ins to make sure they are keeping up healthy eating habits.

Agencies who violate this ban could receive massive fines of up to 75,000 euros, or even a jail sentence. As a former ballerina, it’s amazing to hear that steps are being taken against anorexia and eating disorders. Every woman, and even men, have experienced what it’s like to be pressured to conform their body to fit some ideal model. It’s bad on a normal level, and the pressure of being impossibly thin for the fashion industry makes it even worse.

Marisol Touraine, the Health Minister of Health in France, has spoken in support of the new legislation, saying that girls and women look to models to set trends and examples of what a perfect aesthetic is; it’s important for that image to be a healthy one.

While the United States hasn’t stepped up to ban anorexia on runways, it’s taking steps in a different direction calling for less photoshop and more representation of different body types in magazines and media. Maybe the US can look to France for inspiration in banning our most fatal mental illness, anorexia.