Sunday, April 20, 2008


Doreen Carvajal reports in The New York Times that a French Bill wanting to ban "ana" and "mia" websites has passed the lower House. The bill also wants to disrupt *any* mass comm venue that aims to "provoke a person to seek excessive weight loss" or could lead to "excessive thinness"(A14).

On the surface, it might seem easy to deride this bill as a document overfull of absurd irony; it's coming out of France, nexus of all-things-fashion and extreme thinness. But hey, the French walk so much more than do Americans, or so we are told as a key rationale for the so-called "French paradox" promoted by Mireille Guliano in her massively high-selling French Women Don't Get Fat. The French are, apparently, smarter than we are, and they have distanced themselves from dieting and lack of portion control; they only eat fresh, locally grown foods and use the finest ingredients . . . and so on . . . and some of what she writes makes sense, but there is. a certain. snob-appeal. And but look! Guliano served for 20 years as CEO of Clicquot, Inc. --think Champagne -- and was a senior executive for France's fashion empire LVMH. so.

So I'm reading about this bill and thinking about everything I'm sold about a French ethos that is simply superior and better suited for life and sex and health and pleasure, but clearly, all is not well, and so a smart person might problematize the matter of this extreme thinness, because working models walking Parisian (and other) runways are not, simply, making smart choices. Come on. I wish it were true. I too used to lie (along with millions of others) about my "smartness" when I was all eating disordered and thin ("I just don't like to eat that" . . "I LOVE exercising!" . . . "it's not a diet; it's a lifestyle!"). And I realize that I generalize from a situation of one in this argument, here, but I've just begun to contemplate the matter for myself (but you too can find simliar statements if you visit a few "ana" or "mia" websites, where you will often find these excuses offered as ways of keeping concerned others in check, as a way of defending the eating disordered person's actual methods).

Anyone who reads me knows that I am seduced by France's ideas about itself. It's deliciously easy to become lost in the mystique, and I can and will find all kinds of ways to defend my silly dreams and ideals. But it would also be silly to read Carvajal's report and avoid thinking seriously about this bill, about how outrageous and important and confusing it is.

So, . . . outrageous! Here, I can't help thinking that it's too bad Didier Grumbach (whom I often find quite charming, surprise), President of the French Federation of Couture (even their fonts are tiny!), couldn't sidestep his routinized defense of the French ethos of supériorité and liberté! (which he co-opts in the name of his corporate interests, which of course, but . . .) in order to say something, anything about the bill's desires that might speak intelligently about -- a problem. Instead, he offers a haughty, "Never will we accept in our profession that a judge decides if young girl is skinny or not skinny" (qtd. in Carvajal A14). Ummmmm . . . because, what? . . . *we* do that. That's *our* job . . . we have a Board of Directeurs! . . . not, "We stand behind efforts to hinder the promotion of unhealthy extremes . . . " which would actually line up with my sense (the one i've been sold) of French gustatory inclinations, which are so precisely identifiable with French ethos via French marketing and . . . and . . . so but why not just say that there are problems??

But despite my initial disappointment, of course, Didier's enthusiasm is correct. No one should be legislating women's bodies (except, I guess, the Male-driven fashion industry??).

I'm confused. I need champagne.

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