Media @ McGill

Alison Jacques | Not only the Lonely: Personal Advertisements in Justice Weekly

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The focus of my dissertation research is Justice Weekly, a tabloid newspaper that was published in Toronto from 1946 to 1972. Like other postwar tabloids, Justice Weekly included news derived from the city courts as well as columns of local gossip, letters to the editor, and personal advertisements. It was unique, however, in its well-known preoccupation with nontraditional sexualities (e.g., homosexuality, sadomasochism, transvestism). In general, Justice Weekly can be seen as an important, even pioneering, site for the representation of alternative sexualities in English Canada, particularly in the 1950s and 1960s. Largely conservative in its editorial voice, yet often transgressive in its editorial choices, Justice Weekly is a rich source of information about aspects of mid-twentieth-century Canadian culture that were virtually invisible in the mainstream press of the day-yet one that, to date, has been largely overlooked by historians.

The Beaverbrook Graduate Research Fellowship funded travel and archival research that were essential to the development of a paper that I presented at the 2010 annual conference of the Canadian Communication Association, at Concordia University. (This paper, in turn, formed the basis of one chapter of my dissertation.) In this paper, I discussed personal advertisements published in Justice Weekly in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Canadian tabloids had included personal ads since the 1930s - in contrast to mainstream daily newspapers, which did not allow individuals to place personals until the 1970s. For its first decade, Justice Weekly's personals column, titled "Boy Meets Girl," had consisted almost entirely of modest and conventional appeals for heterosexual companionship; beginning in 1958, however, these traditional ads were joined by ads that referred to increasingly unorthodox interests and desires, including corporal punishment and sexual fetishes. Justice Weekly's publisher worked to distance himself and his paper from these new advertisers, while also relying on the revenues generated by their advertisements. At the same time, the Boy Meets Girl section provided a rare and important opportunity for marginalized individuals to connect with one another, making Justice Weekly significant in the history of sexuality in Canada.

This tabloid has until now been almost entirely overlooked by media researchers and historians; my aim is to bring Justice Weekly from the shadows into the light, through historical and archival research and textual analysis. My dissertation research will contribute to a revisionist history of postwar Canadian culture - particularly in the 1950s and 1960s - that challenges popular myths and assumptions about the privileging of traditional sex roles, domesticity, and heterosexuality during this period. An examination of an overlooked text like Justice Weekly is of vital importance to the field of Canadian print culture and communication history. I hope to bring the history of this curious publication into the mainstream of Canadian scholarship with this research.

You read more about Justice Weekly in Jacques' conference paper below.

PDF icon not_only_the_lonely.pdf43.01 KB