France, home to the biggest fashion capital in the world, has just made a major fashion statement.

The country has made it illegal for fashion agencies to use super skinny models in advertisements or on the catwalk. Underweight models will need a stamp of approval from their doctor before gracing the runway—or their employer could face some serious consequences.

Agencies that violate the law could face up to six months in jail and a €75,000 fine.

Critics argue that the law will do nothing to combat anorexia, an illness that affects 30,000 to 40,000 people in France—most of them women. And to their credit, they’re probably right. A woman’s fear of unemployment may be too weak a competitor when measured against the psychological strength of anorexia.

But these critics are missing a very important point. The country’s decision to ban the promotion of ultra-thin models goes way beyond who gets hired.

The passed bill also requires agencies to label all photos of models that have been retouched to alter their appearance. France is sending a clear message that promoting unrealistic and unhealthy representations of women is no longer acceptable.

For far too long, a fashion elite has used its influence to create a theoretical and unattainable definition of beauty. Women around the world have been unfairly compared to digitally altered images that scream, “This is what’s sexy.”

It’s a dangerous distortion of reality that has left many women feeling inadequate and insecure.

Fortunately, France isn’t the first country to impose regulations on the modeling industry. Italy, Israel, and Spain have also stepped in to say “unhealthy” and “unrealistic” are no longer in style.

But much more needs to be done to challenge unreasonable expectations of girls and women. The world has a long way to go in order to acknowledge and appreciate the beauty of all women—women of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, and cultures. And it has an even longer way to go in order to acknowledge and appreciate the beauty of women that can’t be defined by weight, height, skin color, etc.

But for now, global citizens can relish this small victory. France’s decision is a step in the right direction.  

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Demand Equity

France bans the use of super skinny models

By Caryn Carver