Writing

A few projects I’ve worked on are making, or have made, their way into the world.

Last month the Champlain Society shared a short piece I wrote about Justine Blainey. This documentary analysis looks at a letter to Blainey from her lawyer about a telephone conversation with a hockey official. Part of a larger project I’m chipping away at situating Blainey’s case in Canada in the 1980s.

In March the catalogue for Hockey, an exhibition I co-curated, was released. Much of the credit for this beautiful book goes to Dr. Jennifer Anderson. If you did not get a chance to see the exhibition in person this will give you a sense of the content.

Anderson and I have also put together an edited collection called Hockey: Challenging Canada’s Game that will be released next spring. The book was a great opportunity to work with many of the scholars that inspired the exhibition.

Five Things You Don’t Know About Terry Fox: May 27, 6:30pm

You know he’s a national hero, but what did he add to the national conversation? As he became a hero Canadians were inspired by Terry Fox in ways you might not expect.

Come see me talk at the Danforth Coxwell branch of the Toronto Public Library,May 27, 6:30-8:00pm in the Program Room (upstairs). This event is part of the History Matters lecture series.

The talks will expand upon (yes, there’s more) my recent blog posts for Active History. I’ll talk upon some unknown aspects of the runner’s life story and how he fits into the story of Canada in the 1980s.

You can find my April 2015 ActiveHistory.ca series on Terry Fox, marking the 35th anniversary of the Marathon of Hope, here:

Terry Fox Was an Activist
Terry Fox: A Unifying Influence on Our Nation?
Terry Fox was a Rock Star
Terry Fox Mania

I hope to see you May 27!

Five Things You Don’t Know About Terry Fox: 27 May 2015

You know he’s a national hero, but what did he add to the national conversation? As he became a hero Canadians were inspired by Terry Fox in ways you might not expect.

Come see me talk at the Toronto Public Library at part of the History Matters lecture series. Danforth-Coxwell Branch, May 27, evening. More details soon.

Research: “Court Aids Terry Fox Fund”

Terry Fox, 12 July 1980. Photo by Jeremy Gilbert. Source: Wikipedia.
Terry Fox, 12 July 1980. Photo by Jeremy Gilbert. Source: Wikipedia.
I’ll be giving a paper on Terry Fox at the Versions of Canada Conference this fall. The paper looks at references to national unity in letters to the Prime Minister, newspaper coverage and House of Commons discussion of Terry Fox during 1980-1981.

After reading hundreds of letters written to Terry’s family, Douglas Coupland wrote, “I thought that after I’d spent a few hours of sifting I’d become immune to the sentiments expressed inside them, but no, I never did and I doubt I ever will.”

I also find this to be true. There is a wealth of love and affection in commentary on Terry Fox that I haven’t encountered in previous archival work. There are, however, also curiosities. In the past I’ve found songs, scrap books, and elaborate plans for fundraisers sent to the government in memory of Terry Fox. The newspaper research is likewise yielding oddities at every turn. This morning’s find is from from The Globe and Mail, October 24, 1980, page 10:

A Kitchener man who pleaded guilty to causing a distrubance at a McDonald’s restaurant was ordered to make $200 restitution to the Terry Fox Marathon of Hope in the name of McDonald’s. Provincial Judge Robert Reilly gave R– M–, 21, a conditional discharge, noting that he had no previous record and was under the influence of liquor when he caused the disturbance.

Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope had officially ended more than a month earlier, but his efforts were still very much on the minds of Canadians in the Fall of 1980. I want to know if it was Judge Robert Reilly or McDonald’s that came up with the plan for a donation to the Marathon of Hope? Is this really legal? I suspect the judge’s decision had something to do with the fact that the convicted man and Fox were close to the same age. Based on other newspaper coverage, I can imagine a stern lecture on hard work, “youth today” and perseverance. Fox was seen as a role model at a time characterized, according to another Globe and Mail editorial, by a “dreary degree of selfishness, nit-picking and meanness observable on so many levels.” For many English-Canadians, Fox was an inspirational story during a crisis in national unity.

Fitness Fashion: Guest Post for Fit is a Feminist Issue

Click on over to Fit is a Feminist Issue (FIFI) and read my guest post on fitness fashion. I argue that finding cute fitness clothing is a feminist act. Yes, really.

FIFI is a blog started by two feminists and philosophers, Tracy and Samantha. It started a site for them to reflect on the implications of their fitness goal, which is to be in the best shape of their lives when they turn 50. But it also asks what it means to be fit and how this goal relates (or doesn’t) to women’s liberation.

Fifteen for Section 15 (& Nine for IX)

This summer ESPN released nine documentaries about women’s sport, in honour of the thirtieth anniversary of Title IX. Title IX is a section of the Education Amendments Act (USA, 1972) that requires federally funded schools to provide equal opportunities to girls and boys. Applied to sport, this provision has resulted in increased opportunities and funding for girls and women. Nine for IX focuses exclusively on female athletes and issues in women’s sport, including branding, objectification, female journalists in the locker room and the intersection of sport/politics. I like these documentaries because women’s voices and experiences are central to the narrative. Watching Nine for IX got me thinking about Canadian female athletes, and the pioneers, issues, and victories that have defined women’s sport in this country.

Section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (kind of) offers Canadian women similar protections to Title IX. Known as the “equality provision” Section 15 states “every individual is equal before and under the law.” Canadian feminists have used this provision to challenge polices that excluded girls from playing on the same sports teams as boys. In honour of Section 15, I’m compiling a list of women and events that have shaped the history of sport in this country. In the next few months I’ll share fifteen of theses stories and my (highly subjective) take on why they matter.

First:

I. Justine Blainey

Blainey_CourtCaseJustine Blainey won a spot in the Metro Toronto Hockey League in 1981, but league regulations prohibited girls from playing and she didn’t get to stay on the team. This was legal at the time. In 1985-6 Blainey successfully challenged section 19(2) of the Ontario Human Rights Code that excluded girls/women from playing on boy’s/men’s sports teams. Section 19(2) was struck down because it contravened Section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Blainey’s “test case” effectively made it illegal for amateur sports teams to discriminate on the basis of gender. After five years and a legal battle supported by L.E.A.F. and CAAWS, Blainey won the right to play on a boys team. This set a legal precedent and Canadian girls and women are now allowed to join boys/men’s teams.

The question of whether elite girls/women should play with boys has been divisive for sports feminists. Some feel that gender segregated teams will foster a stronger sporting culture among girls and women. Letting girls play with boys, by comparison, will stunt the growth of girls/women’s sport in Canada. Others feel it is better to let girls play with the “best,” regardless of gender. The real victory, in my opinion, is that Blainey’s case has established that “equality” for girls and women can include both access to boys’ teams and to separate girls’ teams. Skill, rather than gender, should determine where women compete.

Last year the CBC interviewed Blainey on the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of The Charter.

The Halton District School Board has a learning resource on Blainey for elementary students that can be found here.

And, hey, if you live near Brampton and need a chiropractor, why not hire Justine Blainey?

Jane, Again: Fonda’s ‘third act’ and a return to aerobics

Given my frequent posts on exercise and list of publications on aerobics, you’ll likely be unsurprised to know I follow Jane Fonda on Twitter and read her blog.

She posts frequently – links to her personal website, and announcements about her TV appearances. Fonda recently posted a TED talk. TED, tagline “ideas worth spreading,” is a both a conference and virtual space that “offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world’s most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other.” It is worth a look, if you’re not familiar.

In any case, Fonda’s talk was about “Life’s Third Act.” Now in her 70s, Fonda is taking on aging, advocating for a new paradigm for thinking about what it means to grow older:  age as potential, rather than age as decline. The “third act” metaphor is appropriate for Fonda, though perhaps it is more appropriate to see this as her fourth or fifth life. Fonda started out as an actress in the 1960s (her first act). Though sometimes associated with the sexy and campy Barbarella (1968) , she has twice been nominated for an academy award. By the late-1960s Fonda was involved in radical proto-Marxist style politics. She starred in Godard’s Tout Va Bien (1972) which examined the class struggle – and a film about which I wrote a first year film essay. In the same year Fonda got herself into some trouble – in America at least – for her critique of the Vietnam War and (perceived) sympathies for the North Vietnamese. Of that time, Fonda has expressed both regret and frustration, with the misrepresentation of her position on the war (her second act).

Continue reading Jane, Again: Fonda’s ‘third act’ and a return to aerobics

Fitness for Every Body

I’ve been working on a review article for a new journal, Fat Studies, on recent exercise DVDs for larger people. The DVDs (Yoga, Belly Dancing, Scuba) are all great – I won’t pre-empt the review here.

A drawing by Ingrid Laue for the Large as Life Fitness Program, c. 1981-2.

Instead, I’ll note that in preparation for writing the article I reviewed some new and older medical studies on the benefits of exercise for people who are defined medically as “obese.” This research, published in places like The New England Journal of Medicine and The Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that exercise, cardiovascular health and blood pressure, rather than weight and food intake, are key determinants of health.

Continue reading Fitness for Every Body

The Dieter (1989) by Susan Sussman

“I scanned the booklet which listed foods I could eat the first week. A few of my favourites were missing. Dry white wine. Crisp toasted bialys. Milk chocolate Dove bars. I’d have to make substitutions. The book contained some kind of diabolically complicated food exchange system. I tried to decode it. If two ounces of chicken equalled one protein exchange and I was allowed six protein exchanges a day, how many acrobats could stir a ’59 Buick in May?” (35).

I picked up a copy of The Dieter by Susan Sussman at a used book sale. The plot: Barbara Avers quits smoking after losing a friend to breast cancer. Her weight increases from 105lbs to 190lb during her increasingly desperate attempts at dieting.

What I like about Sussman’s book are her observations about the sometimes absurd things we do to change the size and shape of our bodies – liquid diets, cybex machines and those little machines that jiggle your bum to firm [?] your thighs. This isn’t a simple story of weight gained and then lost. Barbara gains weight, splits from her husband, finds a new lover, gets a better job, and finishes the story at a healthy 150lbs. The book is really hilarious and it captures Barbara’s obsession with counting calories, a process so complex that she (and we?) lose site of the pleasure to be found in good food. By the end of the book Barbara has transformed her outlook on dieting:

Continue reading The Dieter (1989) by Susan Sussman