A few weeks ago France has made uber-skinny models illegal. Yes you have heard right. As a part of a clamp down on anorexia France decided to outlaw super-skinny models and so any designer sending a model down the runway that the government deems too skinny risks a hefty fine or maybe even prison time.
The french fashion scene is in uproar and everything else but happy about this and to be honest, neither am I. You all know I am all but happy with the current “standard of beauty” in the mainstream fashion industry, portraying being super-skinny as the only desirable body type. But outlawing a body type? Seriously?
The moment you think we are actually making steps forward concerning body positivity and size equality and then somebody does something like this in the name of fighting anorexia and unhealthy body image. The French have, in the name of the good cause come to the following legislation:
“The activity of model is banned for any person whose Body Mass Index (BMI) is lower than levels proposed by health authorities and decreed by the ministers of health and labor.”
These levels proposed are apparantly a BMI of 18.5 In practice this means that the model will need to present some sort of certificate that her BMI lies at 18 or above if she wants to work somewhere.
BMI? Are you serious? So not only are they taking body shaming to a whole new level by actually outlawing a body type, they are also using the worst and most unreliable measurement for this, that was never intended to be used as indication for an individual persons health.
BMI was never designed as a tool for judging any individual person’s weight—either by physicians or the general public, says Timothy Church, a professor of health at Pennington Biomedical Research Center […] but because of its straightforward math and distinctive categories [..] it soon took off.
To Keys’ [the inventor of the BMI] credit, he never intended for physicians or insurance companies to use this equation—but BMI was just too perfect. Because it was simply a math equation, it was quicker, easier, and cheaper to use than more direct and accurate measures—like the underwater weighing test […] and the skin fold measurements […]. – Mens Health “The Truth About BMI”
Further info: “BMI: The good, the bad and the horrid”
The BMI neither takes into account the difference of Muscle vs Fat weight nor how different ‘frames’ and builds can influence a persons health/look at a certain BMI.Obviously, the larger the BMI is the larger are the chances that this person is fat and the smaller the BMI is the larger the chances are that the person is unhealthily skinny, but that is literally all that it is.
- Looking at extremes an athlete could for example have the same BMI as a severely obese person.
- Looking at not so extreme cases, someone could fight overweight all their lives at a BMI of let’s say 27, when in reality they are perfectly healthy…
If you are one of those weight trolls who now wants to start in a rant that I want to believe that I am an athlete, you can put the keyboard down. I am under no illusion that I am a secret athlete. I know that my personal BMI is in the unhealthy range and yes, that I am fat.
But let’s get back to the actual topic. Where the inaccuracy matters most is in the less extreme areas, where it will make someone over- or underweight by only a few points. This simply can not be accurate. Not using this form of measurement. So setting exact ranges at the 0.5 level of what is ‘acceptable” or even ‘ILLEGAL’, well that is not just wrong but crazy.
Where I Agree With The French
I do agree with the French in one way though. We do need to do something against the wrong body image in fashion, fight anorexia but this is, in my opinion, really (really) not the way. This is just body shaming 2.o.
And while might be one subgroup in the plus-size community that might applaud this, the “Us Against Them”-crowd, that type that might have pulled or enjoyed the stupid “Skinny Bird Watching” stunt or that might post pseudo inspiring messages online that are nothing else but body shaming repackaged like for example: “real women have curves” or something similarly stupid.
However, things would not end there. Anyone who thinks only a little further knows who or what would be next after a law like this. After the skinny models have been banned from the catwalks, Jamelia will get her wish and anyone on either side of the ‘extreme’ is now not allowed to shop on the high street anymore and any TV program showing women with a BMI over 25 will also be fined or the director thrown in prison, as noone should believe that people like this exist, let alone could be happy.
Diversity Instead Of Shaming
I believe if we want to fight anorexia and in my opinion also obesity we should not upgrade to body shaming 2.0 but rather support true body diversity. (Check out Models of Diversity). Making people feel like they have to strive after some crazy number, may it be a BMI label or a size 0 to be attractive, for many women ends up in one of either two extremes. Anorexia/Bulimia destroying themselves striving for that goal or on the other side extreme unhappiness & low self-worth which in many cases results in loss of the desire/strength of taking care of oneself and leads to comfort eating and additional weight gain.
So as said above instead of upgrading our body shaming, we should promote body diversity as much as we can and this should not only concern weight, but also disabilities and colour. You can look however the fuck you want and that is no-ones concerns but yours. Your body is a dictatorship, no democracy. There is no vote on how you are “allowed” to look.
Other Ideas For A Law?
If France HAD to pass a law like this following their goal to battle anorexia an idea might have been maybe to stipulate a minimum difference between the models on the runway. I am spitballing here. I know the idea is not perfect.
In my suggestion the basic idea would be to request a difference of BMI points smaller when only using few models, increasing with the number of models up to a certain point. So for example 5 BMI points when using 2 models, 7 points difference when using 3 models and 10 points difference when using 5 or more models for a show.
There are a few issues that would come with this, it would complicate things, making it more difficult to find the right models and secondly using a standard clothing size for fashion shows would not be possible anymore. Ultimately I did not expect to come up with the perfect solution. However any solution that would be effective would make life in the fashion world rather more complicated than easier but I do believe we should probably value diversity more than convenience.
What do you think?
Lots Of Love