It was a quiet Friday afternoon, and as I strolled around downtown, I discovered that the local art theatre/gallery/museum, the Esplanade, was having an open house. Now, a vocal contigent of the Medicine Hat population will gladly tell you how the Esplanade is a waste of taxpayer dollars that should've been spent on a hockey rink, and they'll then point out with pride that they've never set foot inside it.
Maybe it's just me, but I stop listening to people when they start talking about how proud they are that they don't visit museums. So, I went in to see their latest exhibit: "The Unmentionable History Of The West".
Essentially, it's a history of women's issues and how they were addressed in the early part of the last century. The standard paean to voting rights, of course, but the focus was on personal life. There were reconstructions of boxspring mattresses that hid menstrual rags. There were early birth control devices, such as a sponge soaked in vinegar, and lots and lots of prayer. The "sex education" of the day was frightening -- many girls were just expected to figure things out on their own as they went through puberty, because their parents wouldn't dignify their questions with a response.
All in all, it was truly enlightening and thought-provoking. Well done, Esplanade.
Walking back to my apartment, I passed a billboard advertising the exhibit. It had the museum's name, the dates, the title... and a mannequin wearing a red tassled corset.
True, there was a section that contained a display of Eaton's mail-order underwear. But the implication of the billboard is obvious. "Witness the exploits and exploitations of Diamond Lil and Golden Gertie, can-can dancers of the Klondike! You won't believe what these girls did for gold!"
It's certainly misleading, but I actually like the billboard, just because of the dark irony. Apparently, menstruation and birth control are still unmentionable in the west.