Private View, Public Birth: Making Feminist Sense of the New Visual Culture of Childbirth

Abstract

In the last three decades, there has been a dramatic increase in media representations of childbirth across a range of platforms: cinema, reality television and television drama, online video-sharing platforms, pornographic film, and in fine art practice. As yet, however, there is little feminist scholarship on the implications of this new and varied visual culture of childbirth and its relationship to earlier feminist debates about the cultural taboo against the representation of birth. This paper focuses on two contemporary sites: the growing phenomenon of 'childbirth reality TV' and the birthrites collection, a unique art collection in the UK dedicated to the subject of childbirth. We explore the meanings and implications of this new visual culture of birth, and the ways its reception is challenging earlier feminist conceptualisations of motherhood and the birthing body. In particular, we argue that these new popular and artistic representations of birth trouble accounts of the birthing body as abject, and what could be described as the 'abject aesthetics' that has dominated the visual representation of birth. In place of abjection, we conclude by arguing for a more thoroughly social and political account of the place of birth in contemporary culture, based on forms of 'natal thinking', which we suggest that the birthrites collection proposes.

How to Cite

Tyler I. & Baraitser L., (2013) “Private View, Public Birth: Making Feminist Sense of the New Visual Culture of Childbirth”, Studies in the Maternal 5(2), p.1-27. doi: https://doi.org/10.16995/sim.18

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Imogen Tyler ( )
Lisa Baraitser ( )

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