Past Event

Too Thin to Win--Legislating Against Skinny

A new bill in France threatens fines of up to $47,000 and two-year
prison sentences for offenders who encourage "extreme thinness." The
legislation, adopted Tuesday by Parliament’s lower house, also recommends fines
of up to $71,000 and a three-year prison sentence in cases where someone dies of
an eating disorder. This legislation cracks down specifically on websites that
offer advice to people with eating disorders on how to starve or
"thinspiration." However, many speculate that it will be used to target the
fashion industry.

In recent years, the media and the fashion industry have been
subject to greater scrutiny for promoting an ideal of beauty that is unhealthy.
Models in magazines and on runways are increasingly thinner. The tabloids and
media scrutinize stars and socialites for being too skinny, yet at the same time
they use these same women as role models and image icons. Many people blame the
fashion industry for the dramatic rise in eating disorders among women and
girls. Critics argue that images of beauty currently being promoted are
destructive to society.

In response, two years ago, the organizers of Madrid’s fashion
week made waves by banning models who were too skinny by standards outlined by
the World Health Organization. As an example, an individual who is 5’9" and is
124 lbs or less would be considered underweight. While some industry insiders
embraced changes and support the new legislation in France, others have
expressed outrage. They claim that new standards discriminate against models and
restrict the freedom of the designer. Some go so far to say that changes amount
to "politically correct Fascism." Others argue that there is no verifiable proof
that the media causes eating disorders.

Does the fashion industry cause eating disorders in young women?
Should the courts be responsible for deciding who is too skinny? Should the U.S.
consider passing a similar legislation? Could prohibiting content on websites or
using images of "excessively thin" women be considered censorship? What does
skinniness symbolize? Who is responsible for defining the standard for beauty?

Suggested Readings:

may make it illegal to promote extreme thinness

France acts to
outlaw anorexia Web sites

On the
Web: Thinness worship

The Incredible
Shrinking Model

Thinness May Become a Crime in France

Questions? Call Kristin Millikan at 312.422.5580.