Monday, 21 April 2008

The promotion of thinness is criminal

"Today I am fasting. No exceptions! I hope not eating does not affect my medication. Oh well, I refuse to eat because I am just too disgusted with myself. I felt like an absolute pig at prom. I will probably fast tomorrow as well. Any one have any fasting tips to keep up the energy?"

"I've been eating 300 cals a day for the past week, I've put a ban on fasting... I have like 60cals for breakfast, 70 for lunch then a 170cal dinner... but I feel like I'm eating sooo much. I don't want to go any lower because I don't want my metabolism to get shitty... It's driving me crazy, I could easily just have a 70 cal dinner and do 200cals a day, but I'm worried I'll start losing weight slower. Does anyone else eat only 200cals a day and lose at a steady rate?"

These are examples of entries that can be found on "pro-anorexia", aka "pro-ana" sites that give advice on how to lose weight,, how to hide eating disorders from family members and doctors, what foods are easier to throw up etc.

France has passed a pioneering bill that aims to criminalize websites like these that encourage girls to starve themselves. The bill would also affect fashion houses, magazines and advertisers that promote thinness. If the bill is passed by the French Senate, offenders would face a fine of 45 000 euros and 3 years in jail.

This follows other efforts to stop the promotion of an unhealthy body-ideal in the media:

In 2006, Spain required models to have a minimum BMI of 18 to be allowed to walk the runway. This occurred shortly after 2 models dies of anorexia-related causes.

In 2007, Italy banned an ad campaign for the fashion label Nolita (pictured in this blog) that showed a naked anorexic woman. The Publicity Control Institute rules that the image was in breach of their code of conduct that states that advertising must be honest, truthful and accurate and must respect human dignity in all its forms.

Dr. Hany Bissada, of Ottawa's Regional Centre for the Treatment of Eating Disorders supports the French bill and agrees that women with a BMI below 18 should not be allowed to model.
"I think it's a step in the right direction," he said. "It's not legislating weight; it's putting a minimum level of health for people to be able to participate in this industry."

Anna Wintour , Vogue Editor, encouraged designers to "consider athleticism and vitality" in the April issue of the magazine.

However, most of the fashion industry is not jumping on this bandwagon and remain skeptic about this new law and is even angry that they're being blamed for eating disorders.

Designer Jean-Paul Gauthier was quoted as saying: "This kind of problem cannot be resolved with laws".

Jeanne Beker, host of the Canadian Fashion Television, said: "I find it very strange that people are trying to legislate an aesthetic. We don't want to promote unhealthy images, but who's to say what's really healthy? How would it look if people over a certain weight couldn't be shown?"

She also says that this French law would be a form of censorship and points out that the images of models "are not to be taken literally" since fashion is supposed to depict fantasy, not reality.

The message is clear from the fashion industry- fashion is a business and it would not be profitable to have "average-weight" women selling their products.

Our society does have a preoccupation with weight. In Canada, at any given time, 70% of women and 35% of men are dieting. A 1993 Statistics Canada survey reported that of women 15- 25 years old, 1-2% have anorexia and 3-5% have bulimia. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses, with 10% to 20% eventually dying from complications.

And regardless of what the fashion industry says, it's my opinion that the media's role in portraying a certain body image that many women (and men) go to great efforts to achieve, to the detriment of their health, is undeniable. It's very sad.


1 comment:

ings said...

It is sad :( Those pictures are depressing! There are too many superficial people out there who set false standards for themselves and those around them because their shallowness blinds them to see real beauty: compassion, thoughtfulness, and self-confidence.