Monday, April 14, 2008

Glamorization of thinness could be regulated under law  

France is considering taking drastic steps to cut down on eating disorders. A new law may be passed that would make it illegal to promote being underweight in a positive manner, such as running a pro-ana website, using dangerously underweight models in fashion shows, or demanding actors lose weight in order to be in a movie. All these actions would be punishable by law. "Dangerously underweight" would be determined by the BMI of the model/actress, with less than 18.5 being considered underweight, and less than 17.5 as a sign of starvation. Perpetuating unhealthy body images could get someone landed in jail for up to three years, or they would have to pay fines.

Interesting. I'm not 100% sure how I feel about this new law. I mean, I can understand regulating the BMIs of models and actresses - I think that can actually be a pretty positive thing for society. And I have always thought that pro-ana websites are disgusting. It would just take a lot of strict enforcement to really make this law effective, and the law itself needs to have clear regulations, so it doesn't go so far as to infringe on basic rights, like freedom of speech. But maybe this could be a step in the right direction. What do you all think?

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3 comments: to “ Glamorization of thinness could be regulated under law

  • April 15, 2008 at 4:00 PM  

    I have to comment on this as a feminist, a recovered anorexic, and a strong civil libertarian. I think glamorizing starvation is terrible, absolutely. But using the government to "ban" it is the worst possible solution.

    Why is law the wrong way to approach a perceived cultural ill? There's (1) the problem of defining "thinness" and "glamorizing," (2) the problem of enforcement, and (3) the problem of giving government power it doesn't need and shouldn't have over free speech.

    What's "glamorizing thinness"? An anorexic will tell you there are triggers everywhere - because there are thin women out there! People with poor body image see the same world that people with great body image see. We choose our lenses, and we choose what we can pay attention to, and what is worth our time.

    Yes, there are more on TV and movies, but...people pay for those things!
    Individuals make free choices to see thin people. That's their right.
    But beyond fashion magazines and runway shots, where will a government begin to prosecute? When Ally McBeal is on TV reruns? When an ad spokesmodel is a size 2 instead of a size 8? When the First Lady of France is a supermodel? (Little point to make there.) It strikes to the heart of where I think modern feminism became too tyrannical. Why don't we demand respect and the chance to prove ourselves intellectually? Why must we focus on something so petty as banning fashion magazines' skinny-ass clothes hangers? Why not get degrees in science and law and art, fall in love with whomever we please, thank god we're not the property of husbands and the slaves of the kitchen any longer, and face the world as human beings in full?

    Banning cultural depictions you don't like is censorship. Not "regulation under law." Censorship. And it gives government bodies pretty much arbitrary power over what is and isn't acceptable. (Like the FCC charging enormous sums in retaliation for Janet Jackson's nipple!) I don't want a bureaucrat making choices about what is culturally available to me. Not to mention that banning Internet sites would be like banning mosquitoes!

    You can't regulate glamorization of thinness any more than you can regulate the manners of your neighbor. You can only live as a better example yourself.

  • April 15, 2008 at 4:59 PM  

    Yeah, I definitely understand where you're coming from. Well, I did describe how they plan to define "thinness" and "glamorizing." Thinness is going to be based on the BMI of those placed in the media, so I think that it would be illegal for models or actresses to have BMIs under 17.5 or something. "Glamorizing" refers to using underweight models in fashion shows, pro-ana websites, and directors asking actors to lose weight for movies.

    But yeah, I agree that there are "triggers" everywhere. It's difficult to set boundaries for this law - where exactly will the government stop? It is a little scary for these kinds of things to be regulated - I know it's for a good cause, but it requires the government to do some heavy-duty infering in the lives of its people.

  • April 19, 2008 at 2:45 PM  

    This scares me because, as an entirely healthy girl with a BMI below 17.5 and a biiiig appetite, I worry that naturally thin girls who aspire to modeling will now OVEREAT rather than under-eat to satisfy the new requirements. I wish that we could come to a place in which all healthy body types are recognized in the media, and this certainly isn't the way to achieve that goal.