France’s Skinny Model Ban

I appeared today (via Skype) on Channel News Asia, an international TV news network based in Singapore, to discuss France’s recent ban on ultra-skinny fashion models. Here are the questions I was asked and my thoughts on the matter:

How effective will this measure be in curbing the prevalence of so-called ultra-thin catwalk models?

Several fashion markets, Spain being the first, instituted similar “skinny bans” after the deaths of two high-fashion runway models, Luisel Ramos and Ana Carolina Reston, in 2006. This French ban is significant because Paris is a major fashion capital of the world. As such, it has the potential of creating a movement towards discouraging ultra-thinness on the fashion runway (more so than previous bans).

Why are there moves from countries like France to regulate parts of the fashion industry?

These kinds of moves are part of a larger movement to regulate an industry that is generally unregulated. Models are independent contractors without the benefits and protections of traditional workers, which is why we are seeing movement towards unionization in the UK and US. These women are vulnerable and often victimized by a system that reduces them to easily replaceable bodies.

Will seeing healthier models have a positive effect on women?

Many studies indicate that media images impact our self-esteem, so, it is important to examine the definition of beauty represented in fashion. However, size, itself, is not the only relevant issue. The digital manipulation of these images in post-production also distorts our sense of reality and perspective on natural bodies.

What effects will measures like this have on the fashion industry?

shutterstock_112699858The bodies of these models are already pushed to extremes, where they are under constant surveillance. Every inch of their frame is recorded and tracked. This policy could potentially backfire, leading to even more scrutiny over a model’s body. I also cannot help but think what will be next? Is someone going to ban plus-size models for fear they are promoting an unhealthy body, too?


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