Weight Standards for Models: Going Too Far?

Weight Standards for Models: Going Too Far?

Weight Standards for Models: Going Too Far?

Paris, France, is the fashion capital of the world. Style and elegance of Parisians is often said to be hardwired from birthk, however a battle has commenced over the glamorization of too-thin women.  

The French Parliament has been debating legislation that would set a minimum weight for women and girls to work as models. Supporters of the bill argue it is needed to combat the persistence of anorexia.

The proposed legislation would use the internationally accepted Body Mass Index standards (BMI) to determine whether a model was too thin and would set criminal penalties for hiring models who fell below the standards determine by the law.

The BMI suggests that a women who is 5ft 7, should weigh at least 120 pounds. However, the legal standards would be determined by the French authorities, who could adjust them for factors such as bone size.

The bill is being backed by President François Hollande’s socialist government, and, if it succeeds in becoming law, modelling agencies and fashion houses that employ models whose BMI does not meet the standards would face criminal charges. Violators would pay a fine of about $83,000 and serve as many as 6 months in prison.

If this legislation is passed it would heighten the debate around the glamorization of being too-thin.

Oliver Véran, a neurologist and a member of the National Assembly, the lower house of Parliament in France, states that these issues cannot be resolved by enforcing a law; “but we can begin a public health policy to prevent and protect and limit the number of those suffering from anorexia.” Véran is also the author of the anti-anorexia provision, which is part of a comprehensive health law being debated in the National Assembly. He estimates that 30,00 to 40,000 people in France suffer from anorexia.

This is not the first time legislation such as this has arisen in France. In 2008, there was an effort to pass similar legislation which failed due to large amounts of criticism from the fashion industry.

France, however, is one of a few countries, which would implement a minimum weight standard for models. Israel has already placed a ban on the use of underweight and underage models. Spain and Italy have weight legislation similar to those being debated about in France. However, they currently rely on voluntary pacts with the fashion industry.

Personally, I agree to an extent with passing this legislation as I feel the fashion industry still does not represent the image of the everyday women. I feel very strongly about promoting the right body image to young girls so that they do not try to emulate this idea. However, although the fashion world does not represent the everyday women it does promote - or at least starting to - the idea of being fit. Being fit is arguably the new thin. This can be seen by the likes of Victoria Secret who promote fit, strong and healthy women.

Although, I can understand why many feel this issue has become ever more pressing, the struggle over the appearance and health of fashion models is hardly new. It was brought into the public sphere in 2006, after the death of two models, which brought about efforts to use healthier looking models. However, the death of French model and actress, Isabelle Caro, who at one pointed weighted 55 pounds, fuelled calls fro further steps, particularly in France, to combat anorexia.

For me, a law is going too far and it suggests a very dire and desperate situation. I don’t think we have reached that stage. The public health initiatives should work with the fashion industry for that is the only way this crisis will be solved rationally. 


Nina is in her Honours year at The University of Strathclyde in Glasgow studying History. She loves keeping fit and healthy at the gym and singing to her hearts content. Because of Nina's love of all things history related, she has a passion for reading, writing and researching. Nina is the Editor-in-Chief for an online magazine for female students at Strathclyde called Her Campus Strath and wants to continue her passion for writing after graduation. 


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