Out of Sight, Out of Mind?

France recently approved a law that bans women who are ‘too thin’ from modelling. Although it is yet to be approved by Senate, many people believe that the law will be passed. This action is part of a campaign by French President, Francois Hollande, to combat anorexia. And with almost 40,000 sufferers in France alone, it’s easy to see why Mr Hollande feels the need to take such extreme action to stop it.

But is banning skinny models really the best way to do that?

Is punishing sick people a cure? Or would the French government not think that helping them would be a better way to spend their time solving the issue?

Because anorexia is indeed an illness, and people are wrong if they say otherwise. It isn’t vanity. It isn’t conceitedness. It is an illness.

Anorexia nervosa is described as “an eating disorder primarily affecting adolescent girls and young women, characterized by pathological fear of becoming fat, distorted body image, excessive dieting, and emaciation”.

I don’t see how it’s fair on models to ban them from working because they have an eating disorder. Did I hear someone yell ‘discrimination’? Or excuse me, ‘la discrimination’ if the French didn’t understand me there. Isn’t that sort of like banning someone from work for having a mental illness? Because that’s what anorexia is.

The French government have made no mention of helping these girls in any way, shape or form. They believe that firing them and telling them that they look wrong is the way forward. Which is exactly what somebody suffering from an eating disorder needs, I’m sure. All they will hear is “Not only do you look disgusting, ma chérie, but now you look illegal”.
Not only is the ban unfair in my opinion, but it is also, to put it simply, flawed.

The first problem that I have with this law is that despite the fact that they intend to put a ban on models who are too thin, they are yet to decide what “too thin” means. And people have actually voted for a law that hasn’t outlined its most important feature yet.

I know I’m opening a whole can of worms here, but what is “too thin”? At what weight does one have to be to be considered “too thin”? Or is it measurements we’re talking about? Because how much you weigh or what your measurements are don’t always accurately reflect your health.

Also, another massive flaw in this proposal is that they are relying on BMI (Body Mass Index) to decide whether people are eligible to model or not. Anyone who knows a thing about health or even biology knows that BMI is not accurate. It gives you a general idea of where you stand and what you should be aiming for, but all a BMI test takes into account is your height and your weight. Most BMI tests don’t take your age or your gender into consideration.

The law also includes a ban on glorifying anorexia, for example, online or in advertisements. However, I can’t help but notice the double standards here. It will be illegal to glorify anorexia, yet people glorify and praise obesity on a daily basis? How is that right?

I’m sure most of you are familiar with Tess Holliday (real name Tess Munster). Tess is a plus-size – and I use that word lightly here – model. The social media world has been kissing the ground she walks on, congratulating her for being ‘so confident’ and ‘such a strong woman’.

But here’s where I need to stop people. Tess Holliday is 5 ft 5 and wears a UK size 26. If that’s not unhealthy, I don’t know what is. If you have a BMI of over 30 you are considered obese. Not just overweight, obese. I did a few calculations of my own after googling what a size 26 would weigh, and with varied weights, the BMIs came out between 38.8 and 44, which makes Tess Holliday extremely obese. And people want to praise and congratulate her?
So people are more than happy to make the glorification of anorexia illegal but will applaud an obese model? Am I missing something here?

I understand that the people voting for this law and trying to get it passed have good intentions, and in the bigger picture are trying to stomp out a very serious illness, but I cannot agree with how they are going about it.

Not everybody who suffers from anorexia nervosa is trying to look like and become a model. It is caused by a distorted view of themselves. Simply taking the illness off the catwalks and billboards of the world isn’t going to solve anything. I’m sorry to say, but “out of sight, out of mind” won’t exactly work in this case.

Cliona Nic Dhomhnaill

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