The fashion industry's glamorization of unhealthily, even dangerously, thin women has increasingly come under fire. And now, the French parliament is discussing a dramatic step to do something about it—legislation that would set minimum weights for girls and women to work as models. If the law passes, modeling agencies and fashion houses that employ models with body masses that don't meet minimum standards would face penalties ranging from steep fines to prison time.
Proponents for the legislation say it could help curb the country's eating disorder epidemic; it's estimated that 30,000 to 40,000 people in France suffer from anorexia. As Olivier Véran, a neurologist and member of the lower house of Parliament, put it:
“We can’t resolve [this issue] with a law, but we can begin a public health policy to prevent and protect and limit the number of those suffering from anorexia."
On some level, this law makes sense. Back in 2008, the National Union of Modeling Agencies in France issued a statement saying it would comply with a voluntary charter to discourage the use of anorexic models. Yet since then, little has changed. Why not put more pressure on powerful agencies?
Considering the prominence of France, and particularly Paris, in the global fashion scene, this could also set a precedent for other countries to follow suit.
Still, one wonders if this is the ideal way to confront an issue that, I think we can all agree, very much needs confronting. Won't this shame women who are "too skinny"—and likely often battling eating disorders? Is this really the best approach?