France Double Down on Unrealistic Body Ideals


France has passed a stringent new law in response to controversies about fashion advertising and body image. In March, advertising watchdogs were trying to get a series of Saint Laurent ads banned in France. They felt that the ads were overly sexualized and portrayed models that were dangerously thin. The campaign was banned and removed from all of the 250 billboards it appeared on nationwide. The new regulations will require that advertisers disclose when photographs have been retouched.

The law has been long-debated in France and was first proposed eight years ago. Recent events have apparently given legislators a sense of urgency: Starting October 1, 2017 a disclaimer reading “photographie retouchée” (retouched photograph) has to accompany any image with retouching. This includes both print and online platforms, covering any photograph where the silhouette of the model has been digitally altered. There is also a new bylaw on the books that requires models to submit a medical certificate, which includes disclosure of their body-mass index when they audition for a job.

The medical certificates will be mandated as early as this coming Saturday, and also apply to models from other E.U. countries working in France. The French Minister of Social Affairs and Health said in a statement, “[the] aim [is] to act on body image in society, so as to avoid the promotion of beauty ideals that are inaccessible and to prevent anorexia in young people.”


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