In a move to combat eating disorders, the French government has passed a law requiring photographs in which models’ bodies have been altered to be labeled in advertising. It also mandated that some models furnish medical certificates in order to work in France.
Starting on Oct. 1, the words “photographie retouchée” (or “retouched photograph”) must accompany such manipulated images, according to the Journal Officiel, the French republic’s official gazette, published on Friday. This specifically involves “commercial photographs where models’ bodily appearance has been modified (to refine or broaden their silhouette).”
The mention is mandatory for images appearing in advertising in the press, online, on posters and in catalogs.
Also in Friday’s Journal Officiel was published a bylaw stating that certain models must furnish a medical certificate from an occupational physician, which is valid for up to two years, attesting the “overall state of health of the person older than 16 years old, evaluated notably in regard to their body-mass index.”
That measure is to be put into effect starting on Saturday and is applicable also to models from other countries in the European economic zone who are working in France.
Models hailing from other regions are subject to an administrative organization and will not have to furnish a medical certificate. However, the French service of health and work reserves the right to demand one.
“Exposing young people to normative and unrealistic images of bodies leads to a sense of self-depreciation and poor self-esteem that can impact health-related behavior,” said France’s Minister of Social Affairs and Health, Marisol Touraine, in a statement issued Friday. “The two texts published today in the Journal Officiel aim to act on body image in society, so as to avoid the promotion of beauty ideals that are inaccessible and to prevent anorexia in young people.
“The objective is also to protect the health of a category of the population particularly affected by this risk: models,” the minister continued.
Pierre François Le Louët, president of the French Federation of Women’s Ready-to-Wear and of the Nelly Rodi trend forecasting agency, said the subject has been of concern for a long while.
The organizations he represents had participated about a decade ago in a work group at France’s health ministry “to make sure that the image of women was not, in the end, completely standardized and completely distorted in advertising of any kind.”
“We are very attentive to that and rather favorable to this mention of retouching,” explained Le Louët.
But, he cautioned, it shouldn’t be a blanket measure that would end up discriminating against certain body types. “What we are fighting for is the diversity of things, so there are women who have the right to be thin, there are women who have the right to be much more curvy,” said Le Louët. “And the standards of beauty, thank God, are increasingly diverse today.”
He added: “Beyoncé can be as attractive as a slender Russian model for very different women and men. This is what we are very interested in — we are fighting for the diversity of things, to show there is not a single face of beauty, but there are several. All measures in this direction will have a favorable echo with the Federation of Women’s Ready-to-Wear.”
Le Louët believes that the labeling law will spark debate. “It must be discussed; it must expose things in a manner perhaps a bit less conventional than what we’ve known in the past few years,” he said.
Stéphane Martin, general manager of France’s advertising watchdog, the Autorité de Régulation Professionnelle de la Publicité, or ARPP, said: “Our [ultimate] goal, which was promoted by the minister of health, was that this mention [of retouched images], in fact, never appears.
“The objective is the diversity of bodies, which nature has made,” he continued, in agreement with Le Louët.
Martin said perhaps as a result of the new legislation the demands made by some designers or the parameters for model castings could change.
The law regarding retouched photos was first proposed in France eight years ago. Both legislative texts were approved in January 2016, but their implementation wasn’t made public until Friday.