France: Pioneers in Commercial Positive Body Image

Retouching the images of models to reduce waistlines and enhance busts and bottoms is nothing new to popular culture. It’s a practice spanning decades, but it’s 2017, and times are changing.


1960’s Pepsi advertisement


France recently passed legislation that requires photographs that altered the body size of models used for commercial purposes to be stamped with a clear label: photographie retouchée, or edited photo. Effective this past Sunday, those failing to comply could face fines up to nearly $44 thousand or 30 percent of the cost spent on advertising.

The French government moves forward with this legislation in recognizing the advertising of retouched photos as a public health issue.

Over 600,000 people suffer from eating disorders in France. Negative self body image has been linked to developing an eating disorder.

The initiative comes after Marisol Touraine, former health minister of France, brought the issues surrounding the importance of positive body image to the forefront. “It is necessary to act on body image in society to avoid the promotion of inaccessible beauty ideals and prevent anorexia among young people,” Touraine says.

Getty Images, an American agency of stock photos, supports France in its new law and realigned its own content code this past week in response. According to the agency’s Creative Stills Submission Requirements, it will no longer accept photographs that have retouched the bodies of models to “make them look thinner or larger.” However, the agency will still accept retouches to hair, skin and blemishes. On another note, Getty’s decision opens a number of possibilities for journalists to use stock photos in their stories. Journalists cannot use doctored images, as edits can mislead audiences. This change could change storytelling altogether.

Most large media organizations worldwide have covered France’s recent legislation, but global French outlets provide the most insightful. In addition, fashion houses have adopted movements with similar goals. Christian Dior and Gucci will no longer feature underweight models in their shows. Models must also provide doctors’ notes that deem them healthy to participate in catwalks. Designers hope that other firms will follow.

France’s new law and the following changes in modeling will hopefully pioneer a future that promotes self-love of all body types and validates imperfections. While most misunderstand the severity of eating disorders, these movements will shape public opinion to recognize eating disorders and mental illnesses as pressing issues in our society.

Companies have tried implementing similar movements and press coverage ultimately hindered audiences. Target’s newest swimsuit campaign features models of all body types and sizes and published the advertisements without Photoshop or airbrushing. Headlines brought attention to Target’s campaign. While most of the narrative was positive, the first sentence pinpoints the “plenty of stretch marks” among the young women. This comes off as negative and frames the story in a way that make audiences believe advertising real bodies and imperfections is an outlandish act. Contrasting, Dove has led several campaigns promoting self-love that have garnered positive media coverage.

France has the ability to motivate other countries to adopt similar regulations. In order for this to happen, the media must make changes to its narratives. Media from all countries should be promoting this movement for positive social change to span worldwide. Media plays a huge role in shaping public opinion and needs to use its power for good.




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