Barbie, the popular doll, has courted controversy for decades now. One of the largest-selling toys, it was criticised for pushing a specific notion into the minds of young girls of what an ideal body looks like. But the world has now more advocates of the ideal figure in the age of the internet and homogenisation of fashion standards across the globe. This has fed the obsession with ‘size zero’. In fact, in such a scenario, it is not really shocking that a school textbook in India would bother spelling out what the ideal figure for women was. The Western world, though, is fast moving away from it, or at least trying to. Last week, France joined a group of select few countries—Spain, Italy, and Israel—to ban models described as extremely thin, with low body mass index from modelling. The country highlighted that employers violating the ban could face fines up to $82,000 and up to six months in jail.
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More important, the country is also bringing a law that would require magazines to highlight whether the image of a model has been photoshopped to enhance the ‘appeal’. The move is to fight the increasing incidence of anorexia in French women. While many fashion magazines have been criticised for airbrushing images for over a decade now, it has not stopped them from printing them. Each year 30,000-40,000 people in France—90% are women—are reported to be struggling with the problem. Besides, the mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate of all causes of death for females 15-24 years old. In fact, 5-10% of anorexics die within a decade after developing the disease and 18-20% die within 20 years. The ban may not have much impact, given that there are pro-anorexia groups and technology provides access to places where there is no ban. But there is a need to change notions across the world of what is healthy or unhealthy, if not beautiful.