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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,


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?

Join The Conversation
Calimie Calimie 9 years
Of course Anorexia is about control, but those images encourage the girls who suffer it. It's the same with pro-Ana and pro-Mia sites, if you are healthy there is no problem, but if you are at risk of suffering an ED those sites are really dangerous. For models, BMI is not perfect but it's a good guide. A couple of years ago models whose BMI was under 18 were not allowed in the runway. I know there are some people who are naturally thin but I don't believe for one second that all those models who look like that are naturally thin.
DigitalAngel DigitalAngel 9 years
Once again, Anorexia is not about thinness, it is about control.
Carbalicious Carbalicious 9 years
Oh my gosh! Finally! I just watched a movie on anorexics and bulimics. It was very disgusting and depressing to see all of those eating disorders.
pequeña pequeña 9 years
I think people are overreacting to this. Although I'm not in favour of banning (the French like banning a lot), I don't think they will do anything unless it is clear that it is very extreme. I'm still not in favour of this law, but something as to be done, the situation is geting worse every day. I have a lot of skinny friends and NONE are as skinny as models. Maybe 5% of the population or even less is naturally that skinny. Even if I choose to believe that Lily Donaldson, for example, is that skinny "naturally", she doesn't look healthy. I know that it's hard to say what is "thin" and what is "too thin", and that it can be discriminatory, but the industry has been discriminating women who aren't extremelly skinny for years. Helena Christensen said that if she would have started her career now, she woud have been considered fat. And I don't want to live in a world where a supermodel like her is considered "too big".
leeluvfashion leeluvfashion 9 years
I agree with Nyaradzom. While I think the French parliament have the right idea, I do not think the government should get involved. The media and should designers should change on their own. Some people are very thin and do not have an eating disorder; I was one of them. When I was 14, I was 5'6" & I weighed 97 pounds and my doctors would always ask if I was okay. I could eat an entire box of Mac & Cheese for lunch then have a large dinner (finishing everything) and yet I still weighed 97 pounds. I was angry that people thought I was sick. My parents always knew I was healthy however strangers wouldn't know that. I'm 17 now, 5'7" and 108-110 pounds. I'm still thin however at least people do not assume the worst. Judging others weight is a dangerous deal. Yes, there are some obvious cases however sometimes it is natural. This is a difficult subject to decide on on. On one hand I like that something is being done to ban the harmful influences; yet there are some girls that are naturally skinny. Then I also have to ask... If they will ban media for promoting eating disorders, why not ban media causing obesity? There are plenty of media related items saying that being overweight is acceptable and okay; it's not since you are killing yourself by being so heavy. This issue is a double edged sword.
designergirl designergirl 9 years
No one ever became anorexic because of thin models. Like another person said, it may push you in that direction because our culture equates thinness with perfection. But, no one can starve themselves without serious psychological factors involved. I am a former anorexic and after attending ED rehab, I can tell you that none of the girls were anorexic because of skinny models. Bad home life, sexual abuse, and depression seemed to be the main underlying factors instead. I don't believe that the government has any right to legislate people's bodies. While I would like to see more healthy role models out there, this is not the answer.
tlsgirl tlsgirl 9 years
I'm sorry, maybe a lot of people will think I'm wrong, but this is ridiculous. Outlawing excessive thinness isn't going to stop someone from depriving themselves of food. Anorexia is caused by dozens of reasons, most of them internal/psychological rather than caused by the fashion industry.
lilkimbo lilkimbo 9 years
I find it wrong for the government to do this because it's restricting free speech. The idea behind it is a good one, but it's not something that should be legislated. (in response to iloveana)
ilanac13 ilanac13 9 years
i agree that the intentions are good - but you have to remember that sometimes when someone is suffering from anorexia, they can't see what everyone else sees, and they can't help it. you get sucked in and you can't really help it. i think that the ppl that should be punished are the people who tell thin girls that they need to lose MORE weight. that's when there's a really big issue becuase girls who never had a major complex develop one.
hausfrau hausfrau 9 years
haha Cat! Tanning beds are the worst... esp when you live in a cold climate, I remember back in college when it was January in NH and these girls would be deeply tanned... uhhh, not foolin anyone!! Plus I hate girls that do that to look thinner instead of actually WORKING OUT and EATING RIGHT... grrr, but thats another topic...
Jude-C Jude-C 9 years
I bet your skin thanks you, CaterpillarGirl. :)
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
Jude, I am of Nordic Stock my mom is 100% norwegian, One summer about 10 years ago i decided that THIS WAS THE SUMMER I WASNT GOING TO BLIND everyone at the beach with my lily white skin, so i went to a tanning salon, the girl at the front desk looked me up and down and said "you dont want to do this" and i said "wha?" and she said "your going to burn" and for a minute i thought "holy crap this is an angel and she knows I took Special K, and stole that lipstick from walgreens that one time!" But she was honestly telling me that i was never going to be a bronze goddess, and i am relieved she did.
iloveana iloveana 9 years
I don't get why some people would find this invasive or wrong of the government, the aim is to bring the discussion of EDs out in the open and acknowledge the fact that those models are pressured to stay that unnaturally thin since its almost the norm of the industry now. No one is saying that ordinary people can't slim down to a size 00, its just about creating positive and healthy images for young girls to look up to
cravinsugar cravinsugar 9 years
Well, like I said, the French can do whatever the heck they like because I am not a citizen of their country. Now, if we were talking US law, I would get mad, as I already am, since I think the Government is too involved in our daily lives anyway.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
It's about projecting one vision over others as better than the others and having the sociological side effect of effecting youth in a mentally and physically negative way through the impact of mass media cravinsugar. Their not choosing one over the other they're telling the fashion industry to stop choosing one over the other.
cravinsugar cravinsugar 9 years
Let me say this: I have seen argument against this because who is to say what is too thin? BUT the government decides what is too fat...and the health ramifications of being too thin can be as bad as those of being too fat. So, what's the difference? I am against further government involvement in our lives, but I don't live in France, so, I say they can do whatever the heck they want.
Jude-C Jude-C 9 years
"I also think its a step in the right direction to at least acknowledge that there is something wrong with how women are portrayed in magazines and such" That I can agree with, iloveana. I guess it's a question of how much of a role we think government should take in this process. I have a bigger problem with heavily Photoshopped images than with skinny models.
iloveana iloveana 9 years
I totally get your point, it would seem far more effective to target those other habits since we are aware of the direct link to deadly diseases. I just believe that its important that the fashion industry does not just dismiss any claim of EDs by saying that models just naturally are skinny, which some obviousl are but seriously, not THIS skinny. I agree that you don't just get an ED by idolizing models but I also think its a step in the right direction to at least acknowledge that there is something wrong with how women are portrayed in magazines and such
Jude-C Jude-C 9 years
Yes, it's true that smoking and tanning are habits while anorexia is a disease, however anorexia affects far less people than the lung and skin cancers that affect smokers--and it is a disease, a mental disorder which is a lot more complicated and mysterious than simply "pictures of skinny models make girls want to be skinny." Even doctors, as the article points out, make sure to let people know that the connection between media portrayals of beauty and the onset of anorexia in young girls is nebulous at best. So if the government is going to try to eradicate any dangerous disorder or behavior through control of the media, why choose imagery whose connection to the health problem isn't even a particularly clear one, over imagery which obviously does have a detrimental effect in influencing people into unhealthy behaviors?
iloveana iloveana 9 years
the thing is that while smoking and tanning are bad habits they are just that - habits. The extreme weightloss from Anorexia is more a symptom of a mental disorder which really has nothing to do with food and more to do with self-worth. The problem is, however, that this consequence of anorexia is considered an ideal while most people have no idea what it means to actuall have an eating disorder. The ban targets EDs and if succesful it will help to restore a healthier size for models since their weight naturally will stabilize once they attemp recovery. Its not about targetting thin people, its about shedding light on the cause behind the EXTREMELY skinny model - which is eating disorders and not "being thin"
Jude-C Jude-C 9 years
I see what you're saying completely. Whenever something like this pops up, even if I agree with the idea, I try to consider it with another example to make sure that restricting freedom of speech in that area would really be okay (hence my previous examples of pictures of models/celebs very tanned or smoking) or if it's an issue of "easy target." In this case, there are a ton of websites out there that are discussion forums and etc. talking about and encouraging things like drug use, promiscuity, etc., all things I also think are very unhealthy and damaging. Would the French government take the same line with those?
lilkimbo lilkimbo 9 years
I completely agree, Jude C. I don't think a law against the websites should exist, but I would definitely agree with the ideas behind that law. (If that makes any sense.)
Jude-C Jude-C 9 years
Very interesting, lilkimbo! If the law were tightened up just to target those websites, I'd have a lot less problem with it, personally. In that case it would be a restriction on speech explicitly encouraging extremely damaging and dangerous behavior. I would still have plenty of issues with it, though. It is still violation of free speech, even if I find the particular ideas being expressed with that free speech to be disgusting.
lilkimbo lilkimbo 9 years
Oh, and as for targeting overweight people with laws, I think we need to remember that, just as some people cannot control how thin they are, others cannot control the fact that they are overweight. I am average sized. (I usually wear a 6, sometimes an 8, sometimes a 4.) I try to eat balanced meals, but I have never been one for counting calories and I probably enjoy pizza and ice cream more often than I should. However, I have a friend who is extremely (about 100 to 150 pounds) overweight. She eats very healthily, counting every calorie, hardly ever eating out, never drinking soda, drinking alcohol about twice a year, etc. People treat her horribly, like she is lazy and wants to be overweight. (FYI, she works with kids all day at a day care, so she is active in her job. She also takes water aerobics 2 nights a week and walks or jogs about 4 miles 3-4 nights a week.) I know I am getting off on a tangent, but it just makes me upset that "sizeism" is still so accepted today.
lilkimbo lilkimbo 9 years
I just had a chance to read the linked article and the woman who introduced the law said the intent is to target "pro-Anorexia" websites, but the way the law is written leaves room for targeting advertisers, etc. If the law were re-written with "tighter" language to just target these websites, what would you guys think of it then? Would it be OK, or would it be a violation of free speech?
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