Guest Post: Sharon Wall on Space, the Maternity Home and Other Roads Taken

Sharon Wall is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Winnipeg. Her areas of study include: Canadian social and cultural history, childhood and youth, gender and sexuality, education, urban history

I find myself drawn to research where I can explore some aspect of the history of space. In museums I’ve always been drawn to those tiny scale models of buildings, towns, cityscapes and so on that give one that omniscient, Friendly Giant kind of feeling of surveying the world from a superior vantage point. The bird’s-eye-view perspective is always so compelling. Isn’t it ultimately what we want from social history, to rise above our limited individual points of reference to see “the bigger picture,” to give meaning to the chaos of experience? Personally, I also feel closer to the past (to that “foreign country”) when I think through its physical aspects, one reason I find the literature on the history of architecture, the body, and more recently, the senses so inspiring.

My article in this volume, “Making Room(s) for Teenagers: Space and Place at Early Postwar Maternity Homes in Ontario and B.C.,” was one way to explore my interest in the expressions and meanings of space in the context of unmarried pregnancy in post-WWII Canada.

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Special Issue: The Media’s Evolving Role in Sex Education

Entertainment media have long been identified as having a key role to play in education about sex and relationships.

All too often in studies of sexual learning the media have been assessed for their potentially negative effects on young people. For example, studies have correlated consumption of particular media forms with early sexual intercourse or teenage pregnancy, while parents and schools have been seen as providing a positive corrective.

However empirical research shows that this simple binary is not always accurate: in some instances entertainment media may offer positive information and representations while school or parents often offer more moralizing or conservative perspectives. For example, a young person growing up in a homophobic family may see happy queer characters in a sitcom; or young people attending a school thatemphasizes young women’s role as gatekeepers and controllers of men’s sexuality may find helpful TV dramas that explore women’s active sexual agency.

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