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French Parliament Outlaws Thinness

While we all know French women don't get fat, now they might be forbidden by law to appear too thin. The French parliament's lower house passed a controversial bill today that will make it illegal for anyone — that includes fashion magazines, advertisers, and websites — to publicly encourage extreme thinness.

If the bill passes the French Senate, the no-thin law will be the strongest of its kind. The measure was proposed in partial response to the 2006 anorexia-linked death of a Brazilian model. Her death has spurred efforts throughout the international fashion industry to address the impact of glorifying and showing ultrathin models.

The Conservative author of the law went so far as to argue that encouraging anorexia or severe weight loss should be punishable in court. The bill will give judges the power to imprison and fine offenders up to $47,000 if found guilty of "inciting others to deprive themselves of food" to an "excessive" degree. To see the fashion industry's response, read more.

Industry leaders in French couture are opposed to the idea of legal boundaries on beauty standards, and doctors warn that the link between seeing images of extreme thinness and anorexia is hazy at best. The president of the influential French Federation of Couture, said he was not aware how expansive the proposed measure was, but firmly expressed his disapproval of such a sweeping measure.

Never will we accept in our profession that a judge decides if a young girl is skinny or not skinny. That doesn't exist in the world, and it will certainly not exist in France.

Do we need government protection from unhealthy images of thinness? Should ads that encourage anorexia through showing the super skinny, be a crime? Is it the government's duty to ban this kind of speech, or should we be able to filter out negative images for ourselves? Will the ban make for a more hospitable environment?
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