France just passed a law banning super-skinny models, but their new anti-photoshopping law is even more important.
I remember the exact moment I stopped reading fashion magazines.
I was 19 years old and had just finished paging through Vogue, and although I'd felt fine about myself earlier in the day, I now felt fat and ugly. The epiphany was sudden if not terribly genius: These magazines wanted me to feel awful about myself so I'd buy whatever their advertisers were shilling to fix the “problems" they'd convinced me I had.
And that was it – I was done. I haven't picked up a fashion magazine since.
I thought about that when I saw that France's parliament just passed a law making it illegal there for fashion houses and modeling agencies to hire super-skinny models—“super-skinny" in this instance meaning a BMI under 18. In real-world terms, that means a 5'9" girl (pretty standard runway model height) would have to weigh at least 122 pounds.
The measure comes hot on the stiletto'd heels of French lawmakers also banning pro-anorexia websites, and mandating that photos retouched to “alter the bodily appearance of a model for commercial purposes" carry a disclaimer saying so.
Stating the obvious: BMI is a bullshit way to determine whether someone is too thin (or, for that matter, too fat). Ten people of equal height who all weigh the same thing can look dramatically different from one another. Except in extreme circumstances, “too thin" is kind of like Potter Stewart's description of porn—I can't define it, but I know it when I see it.