A new law described in the New York Times is making its way through the parliament in France could set new, stringent regulations against extremely thin models and retouched fashion photos.
The law would mandate that models meet BMI-determined weight criteria and be deemed healthy by a doctor before being allowed to work. Violation of these provisions would lead to a hefty fine and possible jail time for the offenders. In addition, all photos that are retouched would have to be labeled as such in any magazine.
The purpose of the law is to "fight malnutrition," as stated by the main proponent for the law. It's clear that this law is meant to reduce societal encouragement of extreme weight loss and to penalize media which idealize sanctioned starvation.
The one statement in this article which did not support the law said that the effects might oversimplify what causes anorexia, but this person is completely mistaken. As I have written here many times, starvation is the first step towards an eating disorder. It triggers the starvation response, a predetermined reaction which may lead to an eating disorder. Discouraging dieting can decrease the incidence of eating disorders.
This regulation is no panacea. The weight restrictions will still leave models looking unnaturally thin but not skeletal. The societal effect of the industry will persist.
But what is crucial here is the message. For a government to sanction against the freedom media has over determining the norms of body shape and size is very significant. The statement tells its people that the persistence of extremely underweight models is not just detrimental but illegal. There are boundaries in terms of what is acceptable for fashion companies to promote through its business.
It's notable that the pervasive effects of industry are starting to receive government attention. A larger step would be to address this attention to the effect of the food industry. The fact that these companies are allowed to sell food that has had such negative effects on a population's overall health without any government regulation is shocking.
It is time for people to understand that much of the blame for the drastic change in overall nutritional health does not lie with individual, as industry would like us all to believe, but with business and advertising.