Thursday, June 11, 2009

Performing Maternity

In "Lights, Camera, Contraction!," the New York Times discusses the ramifications of a new genre on YouTube, the birth video, typified by "Bastian's Birth," which runs over an hour from start to climax. The graphic nature of the footage and the unscripted qualities of the interactions have posed challenges to the site, which often leaves them up for educational purposes, but nominally restricts viewership to those over 18.

Like other DIY videos about how-to projects on the site that are done without professional services, birth videos serve as inspiration to others and are even credited with helping an unassisted home birth take place safely after the husband "typed 'how to deliver a baby' into the Google search engine on his computer."

Despite the improvisational character of these videos, they could also be described as serving a particular rhetorical purpose in promoting the natural childbirth movement, since many of them are shot in home or water birth environments. Of course, as the book Performing Maternity in Early Modern England argues, there is a long tradition of understanding motherhood through staged events and acted roles.

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