Stephanie Sadre-Orafai on “Models, Measurement, and the Problem of Mediation”
CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES & DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
- One of the key ideas in this article is that while we think of numbers as “objective,” we must understand the theories of mediation in which they are enmeshed. As media, number regimes do not move seamlessly across different domains (i.e., from global health to fashion modeling). Choose a profession you know well or a domain of your everyday life (e.g., dating) and catalog the different uses and meanings of numbers in these contexts. What theories of numbers are built into these practices? What are numbers opposed to in these contexts? What do numbers do in these contexts that other representations cannot? Are numbers vulnerable to other kinds of evidence in these contexts? How are numbers used to construct certain kinds of bodies? What kinds of bodes are these? Working in groups, compare your results. How would the rules and logics of numbers in one domain or profession work in another?
- Watch the news coverage of model BMI-threshold bans in Spain (2006), Israel (2012), and France (2015). How did coverage evolve as the ban was taken up in these different national contexts? What changed? Why? How were models portrayed in these news clips and videos? Who were regulators seeking to protect? How did other issues, like immigration, get tied into these discussions?
a. Spain Bans Overly Skinny Models from Fashion Shows (2006)
b. Israel bans too-skinny models (2012)
c. France divides the fashion world by banning skinny models (2015)
- Watch “Out of Fashion: The Absence of Color” (2007) and/or read the comments in Jezebel.com’s collected statistics on racial representation at New York Fashion Week (2014). What kinds of arguments are being made here by the panelists/authors/commenters and how are numbers being used to support or refute them?
a. Out of Fashion: The Absence of Color (2007)
SOURCE: LIVE from the NYPL, panel discussion on the dwindling numbers of black models in high fashion with Bethann Hardison, Lori Goldstein, David Ralph, Tracy Reese, and James Scully
SOURCE: Jezebel.com, collected statistics on racial representation of models at New York Fashion Week