Once again, the French are a step ahead of us—this time, when it comes to fostering a collective, improved body image.
In May of this year, French officials announced that they would require brands to label retouched images advertising their product if models had been digitally altered to look larger or smaller. The label must say "retouched photograph," according to NPR. The initiative starts today in tandem with another front-lines effort to squash the modeling industry's propensity toward disordered body image. In order to book a gig, French models must show doctor-approved medical documentation of a healthy body mass index and proof of age. This legislature is designed to combat the 600,000 and rising cases of eating disorders in France, and failure to abide by the new laws will cost you—breaking this law results in a fine of $44,000.
Also of note, photography stock agency Getty Images joined France. Spokesperson Anne Flannigan said that their stance was taken in direct response and support of France's initiative. "Our perceptions of what is possible are often shaped by what we see," she told NPR. "Positive imagery can have direct impact on fighting stereotypes, creating tolerance, and empowering communities to feel represented in society." Word.
Other media companies and brands have started similar policies of their own volition. Darling Magazine is known for their unretouched images, as is Aerie, American Eagle's lingerie brand. Although these individual efforts are admirable, it's even more encouraging to see top-down attention from governing bodies who have the power to legitimize what has long been a grass-roots movement. In the long run, this will help people, particularly women, see that media has been altered to look perfect and should never be used as a standard with which to compare oneself. By encouraging more realistic imagery, we'll begin to normalize stretch marks, age spots, cellulite, and other "flaws," leading to a more realistic and positive outlook on body image.