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Mothering in the Media

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New mothers face a barrage of confounding decisions during the life-cycle of early motherhood which includes... Should they change their diet or mindset to conceive? Exercise while pregnant? Should they opt for a home birth or head for a hospital? Whatever they “choose,” they will be sure to find plenty of medical expertise from health practitioners to social media “influencers” telling them that they’re making a series of mistakes. As intersectional feminists with two small children each, Bethany L. Johnson and Margaret M. Quinlan draw from their own experiences as well as stories from a range of caretakers throughout.

You’re Doing it Wrong! investigates the storied history of mothering advice in the media, from the newspapers, magazines, doctors’ records and personal papers of the nineteenth-century to today’s websites, Facebook groups, and Instagram feeds. Johnson and Quinlan find surprising parallels between today’s mothering experts and their Victorian counterparts, but they also explore how social media has placed unprecedented pressures on new mothers, even while it may function as social support for some. They further examine the contentious construction of prenatal and baby care expertise itself, as individuals such as everyone from medical professionals to experienced moms have competed to have their expertise acknowledged in the public sphere.

Exploring potential health crises from infertility treatments to “better babies” milestones, You’re Doing it Wrong! provides a provocative look at historical and contemporary medical expertise during conception, pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum, and infant care stages.

Bethany L. Johnson (MPhil, M.A.) is an instructor in history and an associate member to the graduate faculty and research affiliate faculty in the department of communication studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She studies how science, medicine, and health discourses are framed and reproduced by institutions and individuals from the 19th century to the present. She has published in interdisciplinary journals such as Health Communication, Women & Language, Departures in Critical Qualitative Research and Women's Reproductive Health. 

Margaret M. Quinlan is an associate professor in the department of communication studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She explores how communication creates, resists and transforms knowledges about bodies. She critiques power structures in order to empower individuals who are marginalized inside and outside of healthcare systems. She authored approximately 40 journal articles, 17 book chapters and co-produced documentaries in a regional Emmy award-winning series. 

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Earlier Event: August 24
Book Signing with Vernon Glenn
Later Event: September 7
An Afternoon with Elisa Troutman