Today I want to talk about two stories of averages from the 1940s and the different responses to them. Both stories can be read about in more detail in the book The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness by Todd Rose (excerpt here.)
The 1940s were marked by eugenicist thoughts from the last century and the racism and ableism they justified. The field of biological anthropology arose to find racial differences to justify slavery of the black race. By the 1940s the study had shifted to seek correlations between physical appearance with criminality or morality. Statistics was also rising as a field in its own right, and the national appetite for “normal” figures was high.
Against this backdrop, gynecologist Robert Dickinson and sculptor Abram Belskie collaborated to create a pair of figures depicting the average man and woman, Normman and Norma. Dickinson measured 15…
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