Cowart's Common Room
Should Britain be following FRance?

France targets anorexia in media

Ms Bachelot said promoting anorexia was not freedom of expression
The French National Assembly has passed a groundbreaking bill which seeks to criminalise the promotion in the media of extreme thinness.

The bill targets pro-anorexia websites and publications that encourage girls and young women to starve themselves.

It will affect websites, fashion houses, magazines and advertisers.

If approved by France's upper house, those found to have encouraged severe weight loss could be fined up to 45,000 euros and face three years in prison.

French Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot said the proposed law would help stop advice on how to become ultra-thin being spread through pro-anorexia sites on the internet.

"Encouraging young girls to lie to their doctors, advising them on foods that are easier to regurgitate and inciting them to beat themselves up each time they eat is not freedom of expression," Ms Bachelot told the assembly.

'Death messages'

"These messages are death messages. Our country must be able to prosecute those who are hiding behind these websites," she said.

Jacques Domergue, a lawmaker supporting the bill, said that the intention was to send a strong message to society.

"It is necessary because we know now that we have a risk to some part of the population, young girls, who are pressed by different types of lobbies and the risk is increasing."

The law could also affect the fashion industry and magazine editors who publish photographs of extremely thin models.

If the bill is passed by France's upper house, the Senate, in the coming weeks offenders could face jail sentences of up to two years and 30,000 euros ($47,387; £23,980) in fines.

A three-year term and 45,000 euros in fines could be sought against offenders if the incitement was found to have lead to death.

The BBC's Emma Jane Kirby in Paris says that with 40,000 anorexics in France, many parliamentarians feel the law cannot come soon enough

Should Britain follow suit?

Posted at 15th Apr 2008 - 11:34PM   Posted by Miss penelope   Should Britain be following FRance? Comments: 21

Ivy's Avatar I don't think this will help. The internet is far out of control ( as we can see with Nazi or child pornography sites) The money used to enforce this law should, in my opinion, rather be used for school- and awareness campaigns. Young girls starving themselves to death under the eyes of their families, teachers and friends is clearly a society problem and a sign of lack of awareness. Criminalising it makes it even more difficult to get hold of the problem. ( I know I wasn't asked being German in Germany but this topic is too near to my heart to keep quiet)

Posted by: Ivy on 16th Apr 2008 at 07:59AM

Ivy I was horrified to Google Anorexia and find that there is a weight loss pill marketed as Anorex.

Nationality doesn't matter when we pose questions, please never feel excluded.

The posters of the 27year old starving woman that were displayed in Italy at the time of the last fashion shows had a great shock value.

As it is a concern near to your heart how would you advise educating those closely affected?

Posted by: Miss penelope on 16th Apr 2008 at 08:14AM

KittyB's Avatar The fashion industry, magazines and model agencies have a long way to go over here but I feel there is beginning to be a change in attitude, thanks in some part to the likes of Trinny and Suzannah and Gok Wan making it acceptable and indeed beautiful to be 'normal'. But for young girls there is a lot of pressure and a lot of bitchiness which no law would improve. My niece, age 13, tall as a beanpole and thin as a lat was asked by a boy at school (she's at school in France, but that's by the by) if she was pregnant, this has sparked anxiety, self-doubt and it's only a small step from there to an eating disorder.
There seem to be a lot of overweight teenagers here, which is not something I have seem to the same extent in France.

Posted by: KittyB on 16th Apr 2008 at 08:18AM

Faith's Avatar My eldest daughter having been a model, and my youngest always saying she is 'fat' despite having a 22"waist, this topic is also near to my heart.

I agree with Ivy that the internet is out of control. It is up to each and every one of us to do our bit with the young girls (and even boys) that we come into contact with in our daily lives.

Before my eldest started modelling properly aged 14, she won or was a runner-up in several modelling competitions as run my girls' or hair magazines. In the last one, the girl who won was immedately told afterwards that she had to lose weight - so they picked her and they wanted to change her! My daughter modelled for about 10 years - all over the world. She did well in Japan as she was naturally slim but the Japanese bookers who come over here looking for girls measure them in a bikini.

Although it is slightly off topic, I do feel however that we, as a country, don't seem to have any idea what a normal weight for a young girl is nowadays. Because so many girls are plump,with muffin tops exposed over low jeans, it makes the slim girls look thin! When actually they are just normal weight. It seems to me that when I was a teen that girls were, in the main, slim with smaller busts. Now girls, in general, are much chunkier. Skirts used to hang up in waist sizes 22", 24", 26" etc. Now clothes are 6, 8, 10, 12, etc and different in every shop - or American sizes which is worse with the size 0 appearing which is a British size 4 (i think!) - so what happens if you are smaller than a 0 in USA???

Sorry, ranting on, and maybe its not relevant. I think education in school, as Ivy, says is a good way. Not having children at school, I don't know if they do have awareness campaigns.

Parents need to spend time with their children.Sit down to eat proper meals with them. They need to keep computers in living rooms to see what girls are looking at.

Personally I loathe that ultra skinny, ribs on the chest showing but big enhanced round fake boob look!

Posted by: Faith on 16th Apr 2008 at 08:38AM

Ivy's Avatar Thank you Miss P .
Shock is certainly a very probate method concerning Anorexia. Visits to clinics where anorectics are treated for youngsters and persons affected by anorexia coming to schools giving talks could be a first step. The getting thinner and thinner is "just" a physical symptom. A mentally healthy person will never be at risk of becoming anorectic no matter how many skinny supermodels she will see. Parents and teachers and to some extent friends must give a stable frame to the person at risk in an emotionally unstable situation like puberty. Like Kitty's niece my daughter is so thin she can was in a bottle. A boy from school saw her eating her sandwich the other day and remarked oh no wonder you are so fat. She was shocked and felt embarrassed to continue eating. After long talks and a good look into the mirror we came to the conclusion that he simply wanted to annoy her. Self doubt was sparked and it is absolutely necessary that girls at that age get as much reassurance as possible.

Posted by: Ivy on 16th Apr 2008 at 08:53AM

When I was a yong teen my Grandmother boasted of her 18" waist at the same age. I had a 24" waist. She said I was fat. Later when teaching I measured all the young teens in my class, they all looked arrow thin to me but had 26" waists.

I favour shops that lie about their sizes. Wallis, name small cut big!

This issue is about education The British average is a size 16 but who would guess it from the magazines.

Posted by: Miss penelope on 16th Apr 2008 at 09:00AM

Muddyboots's Avatar interesting point about the web sites, a friend l met during a cordon bleu course was anorexic, despite the fact she was a marvelous cook, her sister also was a sufferer. Both of them were taking part in research to see if anorexia was a genetic / inherited condition. results so far were pointing towards this, based on study of siblings.

l would argue that families are aware of weight loss in young girls / women but the help out there is hard to come by, the victim needs to be in a situation to be ready to receive help. Jeremy Vine last week on Radio 2 interviewed a recovered anorexic. very very interesting indeed.

I don't see how you can police the internet, you can make people aware of the dangers but censorship, where do you draw the line, child porn etc is bad, but then what about the euthanasia question? Contentious points need to be out in the public domain whereby they can be discussed, similar to what we are doing here.

Posted by: Muddyboots on 16th Apr 2008 at 09:27AM

Ivy's Avatar @muddy it is very common for anorectics to be keen and good cooks. They love to cook for others but don't touch what they have cooked. They also often hang around the kitchen.

Posted by: Ivy on 16th Apr 2008 at 10:40AM

Suffolkmum's Avatar My instinctive reaction is that France is on the right track. There's still obviously far more to be done but I think setting out a 'zero tolerance' policy is helpful. It jsut helps, in my opinion, to set boundaries for what society deems unacceptable and helps highlight the problem, if nothing else. My sister was anorexic for many years. For her, I'm not sure that it had anything to do with images of other girls or what was fashionable a the time (in fact, back in the seventies, she was considerd a beanpole anyway). In her case it was do with various deep-seated psychological problems. But I still like the idea of standing up and saying, no, these, sites are not acceptable.

Posted by: Suffolkmum on 16th Apr 2008 at 10:46AM

Muddyboots's Avatar ivy, yes this was very obvious with my friend who would create the most fantastic, mouthwatering delights without tasting or eating the finished item. She never once ate in front of anyone and was obsessed with not only recipes but she also took part in very energetic and strenuous exercise. It was very frightening to watch l might add.

Posted by: Muddyboots on 16th Apr 2008 at 11:05AM

Some may find the images of Isabelle Caro shocking. I first saw this women discuss her situation on Dawn Porter's program on the issue last year. There have been 2 death on cat walks in recent years of young models whose health has been severely damaged by trying to maintain their tiny sizes.

At least in Italy they are now using shock tactics to try and get the message home. It's long overdue here too, and the British Fashion Council's silence on the subject is a disgrace. They actually refused to ban underweight girls modelling last year and are now hiding behind the edifice of an Inquiry into whether there is an issue at all!

Posted by: ZoŽ on 16th Apr 2008 at 11:12AM

Westerwitch's Avatar OOoo very mixed feelings on this. I am a recovering Anorexic and like alcoholics it is something you learn to understand and control, but you never really get 'cured' of.

Now I managed to starve myself to the point of being hospitalised (although I refused to go in) when I was 28 I did it without the aid of the internet. I also got better without the aid of the internet. So laws or no laws internet sites, or no internet sites anorexia will still go on.

The problem I see here is that just how far do we allow governments to pass laws to stop us doing things for our own good. Yes the sites are totally abhorrent but they are there through supply and demand they are there because these preyed upon girls want to read them. These sites are a symptom of the disease. Surely we would be better treating the disease. Anorexia is not the only eating disorder in the world we have a severe problem with obesity and both conditions can kill. Both generally (and yes I know this is a huge generalisation) stem from a lack of self worth - that is where the problem lies and that is where we should be looking. We simply cannot stop people from using the internet and it is money just poured down the drain. As soon as you 'pull' one site dozens more will pop up. But educate people on the dangers of under, or overeating and the sites lose their power. And wrong though it is do we have the right to tell people what size they should be and how much they should eat - aren't we in danger of taking away all individual choice. . .

Posted by: Westerwitch on 16th Apr 2008 at 11:12AM

I think the problem is, that this problem usually starts in young girls and sometimes boys, and they can still access these sites, and at 11 or 12 years old, are you really capable of making an informed choice? I doubt it.

Additionally obsese girls aren't shoved down the populations throat day and night in the media as being what is desirable for a womens physique. Underweight, emaciated girls, preferred by the media and fashion industry are, regardless of whether or not they are anorexic.

Posted by: ZoŽ on 16th Apr 2008 at 11:37AM

Muddyboots's Avatar WW comments are spot on, remember that not everyone who accesses these sites decides to become anorexic and not everyone who sees stick thin models starve themselves; the issue is far more complicated, it is a disease as WW says, and she is in an excellent position to know, and should be seen as such, there are tell tale signs of the potential anorexia, the person who strives for excellence in all spheres, lack of self esteem, perhaps an underlying wish not to grow up but to stay a child and a family history. Remember that they do not see their bodily shape as you or l might, they perceive that they are fat, despite the fact that they may be very very ill and virtually skin and bone, People may yearn to be thin, but we don't all take such drastic action. The obese points are also interesting, people can use food as a means of control. the feeling of empowerment, comfort eating and doing without.

Posted by: Muddyboots on 16th Apr 2008 at 12:25PM

Unpeuloufoque's Avatar I think perhaps that the fact that this discusison has arisen shows how obsessive western society has become about body size and food, look at the number of food programmes on Uk and Amercain TV ( incidently we don't seem to have so many here in France and there seems to be more emphasis on sensible eating and exercise than calories) and to me that seems to show a general cultural obsession with eating.

If society and mothers, for, as mothers ,we have perhaps the greatest influence on our children (at a formative age at least !), concentrated on encouraging the young to love themselves for what they are and if we showed that we apprecaited them for that and not what they look like then that might a major stepo forward.

Food has stopped being an enjoyable part of life ,providing fuel for the bodies engine and pleasure for its senses and has been turned into a tool for manipulating, give a child a sweet to shut it up, reward it for good behavour with an icecream, punish it with denying it dessert for not sitting still at table. Adult shoppers are manipualted too you must buy organic you msut have this brand or that, Delia I am told now can tell you which brand of convenience fgood is best as well!

Girls grow up with mothers constanttly talking about thier weight and saying things like " Oh I mustnt have that cake, chocolate or whatever its naughty!" or " shall we be wicked and buy ourselves some chocoalte!" How can they be expected to grow up seeing food as anything else but sinful ? .

Meals are often rushed eaten on the hoof or worse, missed altoghether , the latter proclaimed as if it was a great thing! I've heard English friends procalim proudley that they havent eaten today as if they should have a gold star!

Weird or what!

I dont think you can legislate against this sort of thing but you can re educate society but for that you need common sense and that does not come easily or cheap does it?

Good topic MP

Posted by: Unpeuloufoque on 16th Apr 2008 at 12:28PM

Ivy's Avatar UPL 100% d'accord!

Posted by: Ivy on 16th Apr 2008 at 01:30PM

Westerwitch's Avatar In short we cannot protect our children from everything in the World, but can help them to realise their self worth and we can teach them how to protect themselves.

Posted by: Westerwitch on 16th Apr 2008 at 02:07PM

Unpeuloufoque's Avatar How very true.

Posted by: Unpeuloufoque on 16th Apr 2008 at 03:49PM

Exmoorjane's Avatar While everything you are saying is true, I DO think magazines and fashion designers should have the book thrown at them for their celebration of Size Zero. If magazines, papers, catwalk shows, advertising used a mixture of sized models it would help the problem enormously. Our brains process images in a very powerful way - in a way that overrides conscious thought and the constant barrage of super-skinny women (and men) plants a subliminal message into the minds of young people who are already under a huge amount of overt peer pressure.
Even James and his friends, who are only eight and nine, talk about people being 'fat' with an expression of disgust (and this of boys who are merely solidly built).
I don't like nanny states at all - and I totally agree that the Internet is another part of the problem (but presumably if this legislation spread the owners of the websites could be liable....yes, yes, I know, impossible to track down often...)

The larger problem is, I think, as others have said above, that we put young people under such scrutiny and pressure that their immature egos can't cope with the strain. Ah, but I could write an entire book on that (in fact, did try, but nobody would publish it!).

Posted by: Exmoorjane on 16th Apr 2008 at 04:56PM

Unpeuloufoque's Avatar My sister was a fashion designer and she tells me the theory was that majority of fashion designers were gay men who designed clothes for the body form they foudn the most appealking ie one of a young boy rather than for women hence in order for clothes to look good women were forced to have a boys shape thus no bust and rake thin. How true that is I do not know but thought it was an interesting item to throw into the pot.

Posted by: Unpeuloufoque on 16th Apr 2008 at 05:29PM

All of this is so true. Sigh. When I was growing up in California image was all, it is worse now! I did not realise it at the time but it ruined my ability to eat properly and my figure. I was crash dieting at age 15! Knowing nothing about nutrition I did great harm to a lot of my organs and have since suffered ill health. It is so hard for me to lose weight now because I ate like a bird for years. When I hit 40 my weight sky rocketed and I developed insulin resistance, which means basically anything you eat goes to your waist.

Looking back I now understand that I was skinny skinny skinny, but at the time my bedroom wall was plastered with clippings of Vogue and Twiggy and I just knew I was too fat. I had a 23 inch waist, no boobs or hips and a dog that weighed more than myself.

This is a real peeve of mine and one of the reasons I wanted to become a Nutritionist - to help women have a better self image about themselves, and food.

It's been this way for so long now, and retro is always coming back that despite some women like Nigella bucking the trend I cannot see it changing. It is not just about weight but underneath it all I think is a kind of nasty 'Lola' culture of denial of growing up. Youth is so glamourous without effort.

This would tie in with the fashion designers being gay and denying the true form of women. It's an androgenous look.

Perhaps the good that will come of this latest news from France is that it will get more publicity and make people think.

I also think that along with the anorexic problem this having to be stick insect like also causes hugely obese people too - because those who cannot achieve give up and eat even more.

I never made myself sick but in my teens I binged about once a week and ate virtually nothing the rest of the time.

Maybe education at a really early age could help too? Get children intrested in food as being fun, teach them to appreciate it, where it comes from, the goodness of it all. To have gratitude that we are not hungry. That could help both overweight and underweight have a better relationship with food.

Let's face it though, the whole thing of what we look like is well out of proportion in our society today.

People need to get back in touch with nature and take a stern look at their priorities. Life is so precious, none of us should be wasting it on being anorexic or eating more than we need.

It's such a tribal thing and that wanting to belong is hard to break free of.

Posted by: Crucifix on 16th Apr 2008 at 08:48PM

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