French Parliament put forward a bill to ban skinny fashion models in their country on Tuesday and this has provoked the debate on women's beauty standards. The legislation would make it illegal for model agencies to use underweight models on the runway, in print or online.
The proposed law would regulate the body mass index (BMI) of models and fine agencies that don't comply with minimum weight requirements (a BMI of at least 18) .
Listeners and local fashion industry experts spoke to CapeTalk/702's Redi Tlhabi to share their thoughts on women's weight and other elements of fashion that often become political.
South Africa's fashion figure
South African designer Thula Sindi says that placing legislation on people’s bodies is problematic.
Each time there’s a room of men talking of women’s bodies and legislating, there’s going to be trouble.
According to Sindi, the fashion industry is the only place were thin people are being celebrated, otherwise "thickness" and "fitness" are on the popular culture agenda. In his own capacity, he says that he prefers casting models with good health and experience that are able to communicate confidence, desirability and strength.
@RediTlhabi don't think its abt 'skinny'think should be abt healthy, healthy person won't be obese and a 'skinny'not ness healthy— Big (@biggleslu) March 19, 2015
@RediTlhabi : Thank you for the topic pheeew😜 ;;these skinny model are really putting the pressure even though we don't want to admit it...— Mamile (@ntombik3) March 19, 2015
Local fashion blogger Milisuthando Bongela says that the South African fashion aesthetic is healthier and more curvaceous than its European counterpart. She suggests that hair, complexion, race and weight are all part of the beauty standards conversation.
Bongela says that legislation has brought the beauty myth to the fore; where beauty is used as a currency to measure women’s value in society.
It might not be a South African problem, but for me it’s an important conversation to have because it highlights the fact that there is a general beauty myth in our world. The problem is that we equate a women’s appearance with her value.
Editor of Elle Magazine SA Emilie Gambade told CapeTalk/702's Stephen Grootes that there is still a lot that needs to be changed in the fashion industry worldwide and that, ideally, the industry should regulate itself.
We've got a long way to go to change that idea (of perceived perpetual thinness); there also aren't very many beautiful black women walking the runways.That's the power of those amendments and it makes us talk, you don't want those kinds of issues to be trivial, but at the same time, it's very taboo. People don't often talk about it.
We women perpetuate this discrimination we feel by feeling the need to pit ourselves against each other based on body type @RediTlhabi— Queen Aminatu. (@Zubeida_03) March 19, 2015
Listen to the full conversation on the Redi Tlhabi Show: