No More Bare-Bone Top Models in France?

A charter offers guidelines to fight anorexia, but no restrictions are imposed.

ByABC News
February 11, 2009, 2:28 AM

PARIS, April 10, 2008— -- Organizations representing fashion houses, advertising firms and media outlets with the backing of the French minister of health on Wednesday, in Paris, signed a charter of good conduct about the future use of top model body images to stave off growing concerns about anorexia. Several of the signers viewed the formal move as a "first step" toward helping to combat the eating disorder.

On the same day, a law project made the case before a commission at France's National Assembly, to punish those people or organizations that help to propagate unhealthy body images. Parliament members will examine this law project next week.

The voluntary charter outlines a series of guidelines but falls short of imposing restrictions.

"This charter is a good thing. We are showing a direction to follow. But it's on the basis of voluntarism, [and] there is nothing coercive," Caroline Tancrède, deputy editor in chief of French family magazine Femme Actuelle, and a signatory of the charter, told ABC News.

The signers pledge "not to accept using pictures of people, in particular youth, which could contribute to [or] promote a model of extreme thinness."

Those who signed the charter commit to "heighten public awareness about the acceptance of physical diversity.

"We pledge to promote, within our activities, diversity in the representation of the body, avoiding all form of stereotyping that can favor the creation of an aesthetic archetype that is potentially dangerous to [youth]," the charter states.

Those who signed also say they will "participate" in preventive actions put in place by the government or organizations.

"In the areas of fashion and creation, an awareness and information campaign will be developed by the medical services in charge of the professional activity, on the risks linked to extreme thinness," the charter says.

It also plans on "better informing the public" to avoid any "promotion of thinness."

The charter was instigated by a working group named "anorexia and body image," created in January 2007 under the authority of the French health minister, to respond to the deaths of top models and an outcry over bare-bone physiques that can be misconstrued as the epitome of beauty.

"It was not an easy process to get the different professionals that make up the fashion industry to sit around a table and agree on this charter," Marcel Rufo, a French child psychiatrist and co-president of the working group, told ABC News.

Some feel more needs to be done.

"I hope we will go much further. This is not going to be enough to eradicate this problem of anorexia," said Tancrède. "It's not an easy [undertaking] as the economical stakes are important. There are differing opinions between the different professions involved, [and] there are different views when you talk to advertising officials and modeling agencies' officials."