“You’re not hungry, you’re bored,” “Everything looks good on skinny,” “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” These are just some of the hundreds of pro-anorexia or “thinspiration” mantras sprinkled around the internet. But in France they’re not just gross — they’re now illegal.
Last night French MPs passed a bill that would encouraging anorexia punishable by up to a year in prison and a 10,000-euro fine. Anyone “provoking people to excessive thinness by encouraging prolonged dietary restrictions that could expose them to a danger of death or directly impair their health” could be punished, says the amendment to the current health law. This amendment is separate from France’s rejected bill banning underweight models from the runway, though that one too has pro-ana websites in its crosshairs.
It’s not the first time steps have been taken to crack down on sites posting thinspo memes and tips on surviving without solid food. France specifically has been pushing these laws for years. In 2012 Tumblr announced it would be banning blogs that “actively promote self harm,” including ““blogs that glorify or promote anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders; self-mutilation; or suicide.” Users searching thinspo hashtags are greeted with a self help message before they see results.
The problem with this new law is that it will effectively target the same teenage girls making up the estimated 30,000-40,000 anorexics in France. Sites with titles like “Your Best Friend Ana” aren’t being created by startup bros in France’s answer to Silicon Valley — they’re the work of young women who are often incredibly vulnerable and mentally unstable themselves. Obviously something needs to be done about the proliferation of websites glorifying psychological health problems. But are these people who should be slapped with fines and shoved into jail cells?