|Underweight by US Standards|
The French parliament is considering a law that would set weight standards for models, based on body-mass index, an indicator of body fat calculated by dividing mass by height squared. Models with BMIs lower than 18 would be banned, and agencies that employ them could face tens of thousands of dollars in fines or even criminal penalties including jail for staff. Proponents say the measure is essential to combat eating disorders and unhealthy body-image standards. The law's author says there are between 30,000 and 40,000 people in France suffering from anexoria, and the average BMI for women in France is 23.2, the lowest in Western Europe. The law is backed by President Francois Hollande and seems likely to pass. While Italy, Spain, and Israel have already set such standards, the proposed law has potent symbolism and impact because it's in France, a fashion capital.
|Kate Moss - really skinny|
The U.S. government says any BMI of less than 18.5 indicates someone is underweight, though not necessarily suffering from an eating disorder. The New York Times lists models like Gisele Bundchen and Naomi Campbell as being in the 16 to 17 range, while the particularly wispy Kate Moss's BMI registered at about 15 in her modeling heyday. For a woman who stands 5-foot-2, a BMI of about 18 would require weighing about 100 pounds.
|Eva's BMI 18.4 - Underweight|
All the right people seem to hate the law. The fashion industry has tended to oppose such restrictions. Designers like Karl Lagerfeld have claimed, risibly, to have never worked with anorexic models. The law may have some effect on the health of models, and it's hard to disagree with the motivation involved. From thigh gaps to photoshops, it's easy to see dangerously unrealistic expectations in the industry. Campaigners cite the case of Isabelle Caro, a former model who died of anorexia in 2007 and at one point weighed as little as 55 pounds.
But will this law achieve its broader goal of combating anorexia? Or, to put that another way, can you legislate people out of disease?Of course not. It would be widely flouted by women models who would flirt with whatever standard was set as "too thin" by cheating on their weigh ins.
My guess is that ultimately, the French enjoy their women too much to pass this law.