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.

Tomorrow: Historical Perspectives on Obesity Stigma

Tomorrow afternoon I’m speaking at the Canadian Obesity Student Meeting (COSM) in Waterloo, Ontario. My talk, “Historical Perspectives on Obesity Stigma” examines how the problems that we associate with obesity have shifted over time, from religious (sin) to moral (poor character) to health issues. Obesity’s history means that, when we try to engage the public in a conversation about weight and health, we’re working against a deeply ingrained cultural belief that what you see on the outside is a reflection of who someone is on the inside. Looking at this cultural history, I believe, helps us to better understand the depth of obesity stigma in the contemporary context. People experience their health, fat or thin, not with discreet dividing lines between medical and social settings, but immersed in a culture that is fascinated with better managing the body.

The details:

When: 4:00pm on June 18, 2014
Where: In the Lecture Hall at St. Paul’s University, University of Waterloo
Who: The talk is intended for graduate students in the health sciences, so my focus will be on how historical literature on obesity helps us to think about contemporary clinical health practices. But, everyone welcome.
Why: Because social scientists and scientists should talk to each other!

Check out the full program, including lots of panels on obesity stigma.

Feminism and Technology @ The Berks

I wrote a post over at ActiveHistory.ca about feminism and technology at the Berkshire Conference of Women’s Historians.

The Berks starts this week and, as part of my work for the media committee, I felt compelled to think a little bit about the history of feminism and technology. Feminists have sometimes felt uneasy about technology, but have found lots of creative ways to harness various forms of “technoscience” in their activism.

There are lots of digital/technical/scientific things happening at the Berks. If you’re going (or thinking about it) check out this information on the Digital Lab and the Wikipedia Hack-a-thon.

And, if you’re interested in technology/digital/social media, join me at the Twitterstorians meet-up Thursday night. Details here.

After the conference I’ll return to Fifteen for XV with a post on sports feminism and the Canadian government.

Berkshire Conference of Women Historians

I’m volunteering with the media committee of the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians, which is being held in Canada for the first time from 22-25 May. The “Big Berks” brings together scholars from different fields interested in the history of women, studies of gender, sexuality, bodies, colonialism and feminist theory. Anyway, this, plus a few new projects are the reason I’m just getting back to Fifteen for XV this week.

Among the cool features of the conference will be a screening and talk with Sarah Polley about her fantastic documentary Stories We Tell. The film documents Polley’s exploration of her life history, and it speaks to the contradictions that emerge from studying personal experience.

I’m also excited for “Teacher’s Day,” a series of talks on using gender (past and present) in the classroom.

Stay tuned to the conference website, Twitter feed and Facebook page if you want to know more.

Ethics of “Obesity Epidemic” to be Examined at International Workshop

A group of 20 international experts on obesity will gather in Kitchener-Waterloo on the weekend of October 20-21, to share insights into the social and cultural dimensions of obesity in Canada. Attendees will reflect on the ethical and equity issues that arise in the treatment of people deemed obese.

“As the obesity epidemic and critical responses to it reach the 10-year mark, this planning meeting brings together scholars whose work expands upon and complicates understanding of fatness and the obesity epidemic in the Canadian context,” says Wendy Mitchinson, Canada Research Chair in Gender and Medical History at the University of Waterloo and co-organizer of the conference.

One participant, Michael Gard of Australia’s Southern Cross University, examines Canadian weight statistics during the last thirty years, and questions whether the rhetoric of “crisis” is warranted at all given the recent plateau in obesity rates.

Other experts will examine obesity stigma, a problem that may deter people from seeking medical care, and isolate them in social situations. Obesity stigma is defined as the negative treatment and discrimination experienced by people who are considered “fat”. Other visiting scholars include:

• Charlene Elliott (University of Calgary) who asks who is “responsible” for childhood obesity, and considers the implications of government programs aimed at youth.

• Deborah McPhail (University of Manitoba) looks at obesity stigma in working class and poor populations, specifically in rural areas

• Gerry Kasten (Public Health Dietician) and Lawrence Mroz (University of British Columbia) who focus on eating and body management practices in gay male communities.

• Jenny Ellison (Mount Allison University) who will talk about critical responses to obesity stigma by Canadian and American “fat activists.”

As well as critical perspectives, participants will hear innovative suggestions from scholars like LeAnne Petherick (University of Manitoba) and Natalie Beausoleil (Memorial University of Newfoundland), who explore new modes for obesity education that would promote self-esteem and healthy body image in children.

Organizers of the workshop received funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) for work in the area of health ethics. The work done at the meeting will result in a published collection of articles.

For more information, contact me.

CFP – Obesity in Canada: Historical and Critical Perspectives

Proposals for papers are invited for a symposium and an edited collection of essays on critical perspectives on Obesity in Canada. In Canada estimated obesity rates have risen over the course of the twentieth century, though the measurement and criteria for being obese have also changed during this time (Mitchinson 2009). Particular groups in Canada, notably low income people, are more likely to be labelled obese, and yet a glance through newspapers, magazines and television shows suggests that fatness and staying slim are the preoccupations of the middle class (Raine 2004). In 2003 the World Health Organization  (WHO) reported that “almost all countries” around the world were experiencing an “obesity epidemic” as a result of increasing industrialization, mechanization and urbanization (WHO  2003).  WHO’s report legitimized escalating fears that the world’s population was growing fatter and provided a focus for more general concerns about normal body weight and shape.

Continue reading CFP – Obesity in Canada: Historical and Critical Perspectives