Often, American culture is reprimanded for putting unrealistic ideas of beauty into our women’s heads. Worse yet, many of our super thin, super rib-cagey, supermodels have been criticized for conveying an impossible, and even unhealthy, pedestal for women to climb. And while you can definitely argue that such criticism is well deserved, elsewhere in the world more extreme measures are being taken against extreme thinness.
The French parliament’s lower house has adopted a groundbreaking bill recently. It is quite literally, the first, and most powerful movement of its kind: the bill makes it illegal for anyone-and this includes fashion magazines and other media where models are utilized-to publicly incite “extreme thinness.”
Now, the bill has to get through the Senate in the coming weeks. And while the National Assembly passed the bill after the legislation won unanimous support from the ruling conservative Union for Popular Movement party, many of the leaders of French couture are openly opposed to legal boundaries and regulations on standards of beauty.
The majority of this international movement against extreme thinness was brought about by the anorexia-related death of a Brazilian model that people are continuing to respond to. French lawmakers and fashion industry leaders signed a nonbinding charter last week on promoting healthier body images.
Only last year, Spain banned extremely thin models from their catwalks.
So, if this bill comes to pass in the Senate, what will it mean for those who infringe upon it? Valery Boyer, author of the law, said that judges will have the power to fine offenders up to $47,000 if found guilty. They will have the power to penalize those responsible for publishing a photo of an extremely thin model, whose thinness has negatively influenced her health.
Dissenter Didier Grumbach, president of the French Federation of Couture does not approve-arguing that a judge never has, never should and never will have the power to decide if a young girl is skinny or not skinny. Additionally, some psychology research has indicated that it is next to impossible to prove that a facet of the media has prompted anorexia or any other eating disorder into the mind of a dangerously thin girl.
And although this is happening overseas, if this bill passes through the French Senate-or if it doesn’t-its effects will still be felt in the United States by the power of precedent. Relatively soon, we may also have to decide for ourselves whether or not legal standards should be put on beauty-if there is even a way to accurately pinpoint who is at fault, and who should be punished.
What could come next if a bill like this is passed in the United States? In a best-case scenario, young girls across the country no longer feel the need to starve themselves because their models and celebrities are no longer holding them to unhealthy standards. The worst-case scenario has the government considering laws against the media portraying people who are dangerously fat to an unhealthy degree, or banning smoking and drinking in television and movies, as those are representations of unhealthy decisions, as well.
Noble intentions aside, it might be prudent to see how it works out for France first.