France Bans Too-Skinny Models -- Next in the US?

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on December 24, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Feel free to eat all those Christmas cookies and cakes and pour yourself an extra cup of eggnog. There are more than just holidays to celebrate and no need to watch your weight. Next year, fashion models working in France will need to prove they weigh enough and this should, theoretically, help women who model themselves on those ideals of beauty presented in magazines and on the runways.

France -- following the passage of similar laws in Italy, Spain, and Israel -- is cracking down on excessively thin models by demanding that they show medical certificates proving overall good health and an appropriate Body Mass Index (BMI) of at least 18 or over, according to Hint Fashion Magazine.

Retouched Photograph

French lawmakers have also signed a stipulation into law that commercial photos of models whose bodies have been digitally altered must include a disclaimer. Whether a body image was made fatter or thinner, it will have to be marked with the words "retouched photograph."

These measures are meant to improve the health of women working in fashion and beyond the modeling business. In recent years there has been much public outcry about the pressure on women to conform to unrealistic expectations of beauty and body created by the fashion industry. Presumably, mere mortals will not feel bad when an impossible ideal turns out to be a retouched photograph, and models will not kill themselves trying to get skinny.

Jail and Fines for Violations

Employers of models will be required to have each model's medical certification and agencies will also have to make them available for every model they represent. Failure to adhere to the new law is an infraction punishable with a fine of up to 75,0000 euros and six months in jail. Fines for retouched photographs that fail to display the disclaimer will start at 37,500 euros and go up to 30 percent of the ad spend, which could add up to a lot of money.

Will the US Be Next?

An editorial published Monday in the American Journal of Public Health urges the United States to follow France's lead in banning exceedingly thin models from catwalks and magazines, according to Today. But former Vogue Australia editor-in-chief Kirstie Clements, who wrote a controversial editorial in 2013 called "The Truth About Size Zero," opposes the new reliance on Body Mass Index as a means to measure health and sees it as an extension of existent gender discrimination issues.

"It commodifies women in a kind of revolting way," Clements told Today. "This idea that you have to weigh women and check their bodies is creepy. It's almost like getting a horse and checking its teeth."

We'll just have to wait and see whether US lawmakers follow France's lead.

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