Thursday, February 25, 2021

In Proposed Campaign Against Eating Disorders, France Mulls “Health Warning” for Fashion Photos

September 22, 2009 by  
Filed under Body Image

healthwarningAccording to a recent report, French politicians want to stamp a “health warning” on photographs of models that are altered (i.e., Photochopped) in order to make them more appealing. This is part of a campaign against eating disorders.

You can read the brief article verbatim after the jump.

PARIS (Reuters) – French politicians want to stamp a “health warning” on photographs of models that are altered in order to make them more appealing; part of a campaign against eating disorders.

French parliamentarian Valerie Boyer, a member of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP party, and some 50 other politicians proposed the law to fight what they see as a warped image of women’s bodies in the media.

“These images can make people believe in a reality that often does not exist,” Boyer said in a statement on Monday, adding that the law should apply to press photographs, political campaigns, art photography and images on packaging as well as advertisements.

Under the proposed law, all enhanced photos would be accompanied by a line saying: “Photograph retouched to modify the physical appearance of a person.”

Digitally enhanced photographs have been at the center of a string of scandals; two years ago, Paris Match altered a photo of Sarkozy to remove chubby love handles.

Luxury brands and fashion magazines have been accused of digitally making models look thinner, enhancing their breasts, whitening teeth, lengthening legs and erasing wrinkles.

Boyer said being confronted with unrealistic standards of female beauty could lead to various kinds of psychological problems, in particular eating disorders.

Breaking the law, proposed last week, would be punished with a fine of 37,500 euros ($54,930), or up to 50 percent of the cost of the advertisement.


While I think most consumers know that photos are retouched, all too often, we’re swayed by these images.

So I do think the French government is on to something here.

To me,  it’s almost like when you see a warning on a packet of pills, or on wine bottle. It’s a message you can choose to heed, or ignore. In this case, the warning would be telling you “what you see isn’t real.”

I think it’ll be interesting to see if this law passed … and it would be even better if the fines were donated to a non-profit similar to the National Eating Disorders Association (if one exists in France) for advocacy efforts.

How about you? What do you think about this move by the French government? Should the American government follow suit? Do you think other European nations will?



19 Responses to “In Proposed Campaign Against Eating Disorders, France Mulls “Health Warning” for Fashion Photos”
  1. Kate says:

    I’m all for it.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think that most Americans know that the photos are retouched. We’re talking about a nation where some 63% of high school students don’t know who the first president of the United States was, and a majority of those questioned on the street don’t know who their vice president is.

    People don’t pay attention in most cases, and it doesn’t occur to them to question. I hear people in line at the supermarket reading the women’s magazines at the checkout, “Doesn’t she look great?”

    Then there are the kids, the younger girls who don’t think photoshop, they just grow up wanting to look like their idols.

    Worse, so many of these images are paired with articles about health and fitness. It’s more than just a little play with photography, it’s fraud: this diet, this eating plan, is what makes you look like THIS.

    I’d love to see America adopt the same law. If the magazines and billboard makers are really doing nothing wrong, why would they object? The ONLY reason not to support something like this, so far as I can see, is that people might be afraid that the truth will detract from the lie.

  2. mamaV says:

    WOW! This is major news. Reading this I got butterflies in my stomach.

    France and Italy seem to be leading these efforts towards change, with the U.S. digging their heels in and not participating.

    Let’s keep a close eye on this!!

  3. lissa10279 says:

    Good points, Kate …

    MamaV–yes, definitely. I will keep an eye out for this. Would be pretty amazing if it started in the European fashion capitals.

  4. julesyparker says:

    Via a media code of conduct that was introduced after a parliamentary enquiry into young people and body image in 2007, these types of warnings have been in place in magazines and advertising in the state of Victoria, Australia, and they are about to be introduced here nationally. The code is not law, only voluntary, but it is having an impact whereby consumers are demanding to be told if something is digitally altered to the extreme, which is obviously a great thing.

    The national code is even stronger than the state one and the government will actively seek to ‘name and shame’ anyone that prints images that have been drastically altered, particularly where people have been made thinner eg. recent cover of Kelly Clarkson. There is the potential it will become law in the future, but at the moment at a state level it is seen to be working, so getting companies and advertisers to change their ways because it is the ‘right thing to do’ is seen to be a better way to go.

    Very proud of the work we are doing here in Australia! Hoping other countries will follow.

  5. lissa10279 says:

    Kudos to Australia! Clearly we can learn a lot from our friends in other countries. Given the global nature of the internet and advocacy potential … I think we can push for something like this here — even if it is voluntary!

  6. Holly says:

    I definitely think everyone would benefit from this!

    Sure, I know most photos of models are cropped and edited…but I think a ‘warning sign’ of some sort would help girls who are looking at those pictures, thinking, “How can I get my thighs to look that small?” or, “Why isn’t my stomach flat like that?” I think France is on to something here!!

  7. Sarah says:

    New commenter here.

    Just wanted to say, I think that it would be great if we could get a similar movement going in the US, however, I don’t think it should be a legal mandate. I think it would only take a proportionately small amount of “noisy” people to get the ball rolling.

  8. clairemysko says:

    This is definitely an interesting concept, and I think the biggest value here is that a government is taking such a strong stance against corporate interests that are harming the physical and mental health of its citizens. You only have to look at the current healthcare debate to see that the U.S. is not exactly ahead of the curve on that kind of thinking.

    That said, I wonder about the practical application of these labels and how effective they would–or could–be. Don’t get me wrong, I am all about educating people about the practice of retouching. I think it does serve to take some power away from the images, but the reality is that at this point almost EVERY image we see in magazines and on billboards has been digitally altered in some way. So if the rule is that every retouched ad or editorial must be labeled, we’re going to be looking at those labels on every page of every magazine. That might have an impact at first, but my guess is that people would start to overlook the fine print–and the image they are absorbing will still be that of retouched “perfection”

    • lissa10279 says:

      Good point about the current hc debate, Claire; things don’t exactly gain traction and run here in our country. Rather, it’s a slow, painful, bumpy road more often than not when it comes to passing legislation. That said, most ads ARE enhanced, so you’re right, too — the novelty/shock-factor would probably wear off eventually … but then again, look at the backlash over the Kelly Clarkson cover. Consumers aren’t dumb–they can cry foul with the best of them … but they continue to buy into the gimmick … a weighty topic, for sure — but I do like the initiative.

  9. greenbunny78 says:

    doing something like this in the US would never work, though- not because it wouldn’t help anyone- it would! But because the US government is so tangled up in special interests that something like this would NEVER pass in the first place. Its sad. I will keep my eye on this

  10. FatNSassy says:

    I think this is a good idea. It is not discriminatory, as banning models under a certain size is. (There are people who are just naturally slim, eat alot and are healthy. I have met several.) It is not banning the ads altogether. It is just educating people are the illusions of the media. I think it can have a positive impact beyond the body image issue. People need to understand that many aspects of MSM are phony. It is a step in warning them to beware of what they see and read. Everything should be looked at critically, especially now.

  11. krismcn says:

    Wouldn’t it be great if beyond labelling altered images, every publication had to maintain an online database of the pre-retouched images?? Then everyone could find out just how altered the images are, and exactly how the women (in particular) pictured actually look (stil gorgeous, no doubt, but not extra-terrestrially perfect).

    But, now that I think about it, if that did happen, my guess is that after awhile publications would figure out that the un-retouched women still represent an unattainable beauty standard for most women (can’t fight genetics after all, or time, at least not yet) sufficient enough to fuel the “beauty” industry, and they could just publish the un-retouched photographs directly. Unless and until we get a true diversity of body sizes, shapes, ages, ethnicities, abilities, etc., etc. there will still be plenty for the average woman to feel inadequate about.

    Bleh. I guess we’ll just have to smash the patriarchy then.

  12. krismcn says:

    Ack! HTML FAIL! Sorry. Next time I’ll close the italics, I promise!

  13. lissa10279 says:

    Krismcn–so true. I remember Glamour did a touched and untouched cover of an actress–I forget whom–a few years ago, and it was amazing to see the difference.

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