Wednesday, March 3, 2021

France bans ‘excessively thin’ models


Following work in other countries, including a voluntary pact between the government and fashion industry in Italy and a law in Israel banning the use of underweight models in advertising and on the catwalk, the French Parliament passed a law a few days ago aimed at preventing the use of models that are deemed “excessively thin,” the BBC reports.

The news from France is certainly important on its own merit as identifying one function of government. Even America’s founding fathers listed “promote the general welfare” among the purposes of a constitutional government.

But I only bring it to this site about schools because children who were victims of bullying are at nearly twice the risk of displaying symptoms of anorexia (11.2 percent prevalence compared to 5.6 percent of children who were not involved in bullying) and bulimia (27.9 percent prevalence compared to 17.6 percent of children not involved in bullying).

The Boston Globe ran a story last week about one girl long ago who was sexually assaulted in 1977 by an athletic trainer, to whose attention she came after suffering a field hockey injury. He molested her and threatened further harm if she told anybody about the assault or his bullying behavior.

Anne Scott, the student at St George’s School in Middletown, Rhode Island, was a good student when she got to the school, but her documented cases of post-traumatic stress disorder, dissociative disorder, anorexia, bulimia, and major depression, because of the assaults, resulted in her being hospitalized several times between 1983 and 1987, the Globe noted.

Research about why bullying can lead to anorexia

“Sadly, humans do tend to be most critical about features in other people that they dislike most in themselves,” said Cynthia M Bulik, PhD, a distinguished professor of eating disorders at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and a co-author of a study published earlier this month. “The bullies’ own body dissatisfaction could fuel their taunting of others. Our findings tell us to raise our vigilance for eating disorders in anyone involved in bullying exchanges — regardless of whether they are the aggressor, the victim, or both.”

In the world of social media, it used to be that surfers of sites like YouTube once could find many more videos that promoted anorexia and put being thin on a pillar. This meant many young people would accidentally encounter so-called “pro-ana” videos that suggested the deadly disease had virtues.

But modeling agencies and national governments aren’t the only ones to note the deadly progress of the disease, especially in girls and young women. People on social media have responded with campaigns that tried to reverse the trend of pro-ana videos, and these people have been successful, for the most part.

A recent study out of Norway found that people opposed to these pro-anorexia videos have mounted a response on social media. Today, the vast majority of anorexia-themed videos posted to YouTube actually encourage recovery and warn viewers about the dangers of the eating disorder.

“Our study showed that anti-anorexia videos were in fact more popular and more positively rated,” said the study’s lead author, Atte Oksanen, a professor of social psychology in the school of social sciences and humanities at the University of Tampere in Finland. The study appears as part of a perspective article in the December 16 issue of the journal Pediatrics.

He also warned: “Parents should be aware that it is very easy for children to access potentially harmful material by accident. As regulating current social media is very difficult, it is more important that parents provide support for their children when needed.”

That is, as we and others have reported several times, schools can’t protect children from potentially harmful material online.

The new law in France, approved Thursday, leaves it up to doctors to decide if models are “too thin” by taking into account their weight, age, and body shape.

The law also recommends that images that have been digitally altered to make a model’s silhouette “narrower or wider” should be labelled “touched up.” These images tend to extol the virtues of eating disorders, and members of the French Parliament consider them pernicious in not showing women’s real figure.

This new law will help in the fight against anorexia not only in France but worldwide, since images of Paris runways appear in magazines throughout the world.

On YouTube, it’s still up to parents.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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