The fashion industry has been one of the biggest proponents of unrealistic and unhealthy body standards for decades, but efforts to curb these harmful images are being taken.
A new law recently passed in France will force models to obtain certificates of health from doctors before being hired by fashion companies. The doctors will measure the model’s body mass index (BMI), which compares a person’s height and weight.
Although the proposed bill indicated a set standard BMI to be met by all models, the new law states that a healthy BMI is up to the doctor’s discretion, a move that was made after protests erupted from French modelling agencies. This amendment proposes some cause for concern, leaving the ‘healthy standard’ open to interpretation.
The new law also includes stipulations over digitally retouching images to make models appear thinner. Digitally altered photos must be labeled as such, with the term ‘photographie retouchee’ or ‘retouched photograph’ displayed on the image.
If companies do not comply with both new laws, which go into effect October 1, they could face a fine of $113,000 Canadian and up to six months behind bars.
Marisol Touraine, the French Minister of Social Affairs and Health, said in a statement this month that that the new laws aim to reduce images that can be harmful to one’s health. “Exposing young people to normative and unrealistic images of bodies leads to a sense of self-depreciation and poor self-esteem that can impact health-related behaviour,” said Touraine. “These two texts aim to act on body image in society to avoid the promotion of inaccessible beauty ideals and to prevent anorexia in young people. The objective is also to protect the health of a sector of the population particularly at risk – models.”
Spain and Israel have passed similar laws in an attempt to dissuade companies from forcing models to adhere to unrealistic and unhealthy beauty standards.