Quebec 'charter' fights use of skinny models

Quebec's fashion industry has agreed to regulate itself to promote a healthier image of women, the province's culture minister said Friday.

Aims to promote healthier image of women

Quebec's fashion industry has agreed to regulate itself to promote a healthier image of women, the province's culture minister said Friday.

Christine St-Pierre used the backdrop of Montreal Fashion Week to launch a voluntary charter to help fight extreme thinness in the fashion industry.

St-Pierre said she hopes the resolutions will foster a healthier society by reducing the incidence of eating disorders in Quebec.

The charter was drawn up by a working group created in March including representatives from the fashion and advertising industries, as well as health-care professionals.

The working group was co-chaired by television journalist Esther Bégin and Dr. Howard Steiger, director of the eating disorders program at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute.

No regulations

The charter doesn't set out what exactly constitutes a healthy body weight, but Steiger said that was never the intention.

"The point behind this is not make thinness illegal, but rather to mobilize a desire on the part of anybody who can really have an impact on this thing, to introduce an appreciation of diversity," Steiger said.

Images of skinny models alone are not what prompts young women to develop eating disorders, Steiger acknowledged.

"There's biology involved, there's personality traits, there's other factors — social pressures are finally the match that lights the fuse. And so if we can reduce social pressures, we're going to reduce the prevalence of eating disorders," Steiger said.

Marie-Josée Trempe, president of the Specs modelling agency, said the time has come for a change in mentalities about the image portrayed in the media.

"A lot of my clients — and big clients — have been very, very, very open and have said to me ... don't send me skinny models, I want somebody healthy," said Trempe. "And that is what we're promoting."

The charter includes a series of resolutions. Its signatories pledge to:

  • Promote a healthy diversity of body images, including different heights, proportions and ages.
  • Encourage healthy eating and weight-control habits.
  • Discourage excessive weight-control practices or appearance modification.
  • Refuse to subscribe to esthetic ideals based on extreme thinness.
  • Remain vigilant and diligent so as to minimize the risks of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and unhealthy preoccupations with weight.
  • Act as agents of change so as to promote healthy eating and weight-control practices and realistic body images.
  • Promote the Quebec Charter for a Healthy and Diverse Body Image among their partners, clients and colleagues, while respecting and adhering to its principles.

The move follows the efforts of other jurisdictions, including Madrid, to impose restrictions that essentially ban the use of overly thin models.

Earlier this month, Germany's highest-circulation women's magazine, Brigitte, said it would stop using professional models in favour of women whose bodies better resemble those of its readers.

Between 40,000 and 65,000 women in Quebec suffer from eating disorders, according to the Quebec Association for Assistance to People Suffering from Anorexia and Bulimia.