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Sexual Harassment in Display Work: The Case of the Modeling Industry

by Jocelyn Elise Crowley

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This feminist analysis focuses on sexual harassment within a specific category of jobs known as display work, where primarily women’s bodies are commodified and sold to consumers, and often through the conduits of powerful male industry leaders.

Using qualitative content analysis methods to analyze 88 subjective, first-person narratives of harassment from 70 models working within the fashion business, I describe how the commodification of bodies interacts with the particular features of the modeling industry—the premium placed on youth, ambiguous industry demands, and the presence of kingmakers—to produce an environment in which opportunities for sexual harassment can proliferate. All these factors impose extreme worker vulnerability costs on predominantly women and ultimately contribute to maintaining gender-based, hierarchical power differentials between men wielding authority within the industry and these models over time.

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