26 April 2009

Sexuality and ‘The Purity Myth’ by Jessica Valenti

An short excerpt from the book The Purity Myth appeared yesterday on Parentcentral.com on the Toronto Star pages online. The subheading was ‘The author of a new book argues against purity cults’, and that is what Jessica Valenti does, in this promotion of her book. How does such tripe get included in the parents’ section of the Toronto Star? Do parents realize that this author is promoting promiscuity in this piece, and possibly within the entire book if this is any indication of what it’s about?

Approaching this subject in a black-and-white manner, only seeing two perspectives, she leaves readers with the suggestion that purity and virginity are old-fashioned and destructive towards young women’s sense of themselves, sexually. Attempting to turn readers (parents?) against the idea of purity and virginity is not a rational approach to the serious topic of young women’s sexuality. It’s part of it, but it isn’t the main problem. Making virginity the problem suggests to readers that the only alternative is so-called sexual ‘freedom,’ a stance I find damaging for girls/women and to society, maybe more so than the idea that women should remain pure. My response to the piece submitted online follows:

The double standard of gender differences in sexuality

Jessica Valenti has set up two polar opposites in this excerpt, creating a false sense of what the problems are. It's popular now to 'be sexual', as she says, although I wonder how much of the 'being sexual' is really that, for many young women out of touch with their own bodies. Valenti claims that "The sexual double standard is alive and well, and it's irrevocably damaging young women," but the problem actually is that feminists, in their attempt to do away with the double standard, have put women in the position of having to pretend there is no double 'standard', if standard is the right word.

Men's sexuality IS different than women's. Men have a different physical body, different biology, different hormones, while the standard men (and women) are led to believe in is that women are the same as men, sexually, and are, or should be, willing and able to have sex, without a relationship, for the sake of fun and sexual release only. Women are rewarded for perpetuating that tradition.

How 'virginity' is a dangerous idea
Jessica Valenti
Parentcentral.ca (Toronto Star)
Apr 25, 2009

24 April 2009

Discrimination against mentally disabled and developmentally challenged: Orillia

Recently, in March, 2009, while searching the internet for information on the Ontraio Hospital at Orillia, Ontario, I came across a website offering the postcard 'Ontario Hospital or the Orillia Asylum for Idiots'. The site was apparently set up by the Orillia Public Library. I submitted a comment (on March 16, 2009) to the site, http://images.ourontario.ca/orillia/details.asp?ID=20399&p=c, giving my thoughts on this, as follows:

I'm really surprised that a library would resort to using this kind of description - even if it's true that the Ontario Hospital at Orillia once was called the Asylum for Idiots. To have it set up so that people can actually send this card by email is beyond belief. If you had the opportunity, library staff, would you make such postcards available to email if they showed and mentioned 'n----rs'? [Posted by Sue McPherson, 16 Mar 2009 at 16:17].

When I checked the other day, a response had been posted from the editors of the site, but which neglected to address my concerns:

Thank you for your comments Sue. I appreciate your concern regarding derogatory terms in these listings but the fact of the matter is...the name of the hospital was at that time called the Orillia Asylum for Idiots. Bear in mind that this was a the term used back in the 1860.s & 1870s. Of course we don't use such terms today. However, when inputting historical information it is important that we keep the names, titles and terminology given at that period in time. This makes it easier for those doing research and will be looking for something using the official title. Here is some history on the building you might find it interesting. This is a direct passage from the Frost Scrapbook. Couchiching Beach Park was originally called ‘Asylum Point”. The building was originally erected for a hotel by Henry Fraser of Price’s Corners. It was purchased by the Government in 1859 and enlarged and occupied by a “Convalescent Lunatic Asylum” to use the objectionable description of those days. The hospital was under the charge of Dr. John Ardagh. The name was later changed to “Orillia Lunatic Asylum for Chronic Patients”. This was later converted to “Asylum for Idiots” under Dr. Beaton. The Beaton family were very well known in Orillia. The building was then torn down after which the property was purchased by the Town for Couchiching Beach Park. The Price was $10,000.00. The present great institution for defective children was then erected on its present on Lake Simcoe. On an aside. In later years the new building became known as the Huronia Regional Centre or H.R.C. That is what it is called today.

I decided to submit another comment, which I did today, April 24, 2009, to the same site, as follow:

I didn't realize you were 'inputting historical information on the internet' in this manner. I thought it was a joke - a bad one, making fun of people, once again, whose mental condition has so often been something of ridicule in society. The fact of the matter is, that while it may be true the institution was called that (an asylum for idots) it is not so true that it was them who were the idiots. It might just be that the people who put them there, who treated them, and punished them, were the idiots.

I could understand it, to some extent, if you felt threatened by the people you are telling this kind of distortion about, if they were rich, powerful women and men. But they weren't. The patients were often lied about, or punished for not conforming to society, perhaps placed in the mental hospital by their families in order to get rid of them, or sometimes they may have been victims of misunderstandings, of their own emotions, or the emotions of others. I agree, to a large extent, that understanding the circumstances of the historical topic requires an analysis sensitive to its history, but more than that I believe it requires an analysis sensitive to the topic itself, and not just to the historical period. Unfortunately, that was lacking in the original set-up of the postcard online, as you (who by the way still remains anonymous) must realize. I do realize that the Orillia institution was more recently known as the Huronia Regional Centre, from doing an internet search on the subject, and many years ago I worked summers at the Ontario Hospital in Woodstock (later called the Oxford Regional Centre), and knew of the hospital in Orillia.
[submitted April 24, 2009, by Sue McPherson].

Added Apr 25, 2012

Since then, several other comments have been made, some concerned about having the truth about the hospital told, some more about the criticism itself.

As it happens, through the comments now on this site, telling the story of the building, one of the main problems has been resolved. If a reputable organization decides to promote its city’s history or offer information for anyone with connections, then using a defamatory title on such a postcard would need to be accompanied by an explanation of how it came to be used and what the building later came to be known as – in other words – the history of the postcard.

Simply posting an image of the postcard, for internet viewers to access and pay a fee to email interested others, without explaining the history, would simply perpetuate the ignorance of viewers as well as, perhaps, receivers of the email postcard which had the title ‘Orillia Asylum of Idiots.’

Strangely, I didn’t receive any acknowledgment of the part I played in raising awareness of this issue, but I do hope it has sunk in. Without an explanation to go with the postcard, displaying it in such a manner suggests other motives than educating readers.

Postcard ‘Orillia Asylum for Idiots’
Orillia Library online images

Link updated Apr 2012

11 April 2009

Montreal massacre article by Timson

Following the April 7, 2009 article on the Montreal Massacre in the Globe and Mail are comments made by readers on many aspects of this event in Canada's history and the impact it and feminism have had on Canada. Particularly relevant in today's society, due to the failing economy, is the fact that there are more middle class double-career families, while other men and women get left out. The more one has, the more one gets.

So some men and women are struggling to meet deadlines for ever-increasing mountains of work, heaped upon their ever-heightening reputations, while other men and women who never got the chance to move ahead may be struggling to pay the bills. Note: the subject of the article is not the main issue of my blog today. Discussion through the comments made on the article is.

Added Apr 25, 2012

The comments made on the Timson article are available to read in the document listed below.

Note: Those who would prefer that their comment not be included in this document please let me know the username and date/time and I will remove it.

I have also included in the list of references two articles by Mark Steyn, the first of which is on the same topic as Timson’s article, and was mentioned by a commenter. The second was a response by Steyn to the comments he received.

Excusing the men who ran away
By Mark Steyn
Mar 5, 2009

Montreal massacre: Let's stop this talk of cowards
By Judith Timson
Globe and Mail
Apr 7, 2009

Montreal Massacre website
By Sue McPherson

The silence of the Canadian lambs
By Mark Steyn
Macleans magazine
Mar 26, 2009

Links updated June 2012