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  • Writer's pictureClaire Sersun

Media, Home-Births, and Fitness... oh no!

Media, home-births, and fitness all have in common this one thing: Misrepresentation

The following two articles use qualitative and quantitative research methods to reveal how misrepresentation in the media creates harmful expectations of home-births and fitness regimens.


Because women nowadays rely on the internet and media for their source of expectations when confronted with childbirth, a vast array of media portrayals is important. With a wide array showing the complexities of birth, it will empower women and may lower the maternal mortality rate. What is most impactful in the article Miracles and home births: the importance of media representations of birth by Molly Wiant Cummins is the analysis of the quantitative data in relation to the mortality rates in the US. While there are starting to be more diverse shows covering births, they stick to the 5 representations that Chikako Takeshita proposes:

(1) incite fear of childbirth by emphasizing the risks; (2) solidify the idea that hospitals are the only rational place to give birth; (3) normalize reliance on technology and trivialize women’s capacity to give birth; (4) present pregnant women as passive actors without agency; and (5) ignore or disparage midwifery.

This paired with the fact that "the maternal mortality rate increased 26.6% from 2000 to 2014" in the US and that

for the period of 2011–2014, there were 12.4 deaths (of the mother) per 100,000 live births for White women, but 40.0 deaths for Black women and 17.8 for women of other races and roughly 60% of pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S. (maternal deaths during pregnancy, birth, or somewhere during the first year post-partum) could have been prevented.

Cummins looked at these facts along with "The Miracle Of Birth" and the home-birth scene in Jane The Virgin. Both of these, while starting to lean in the right direction, still satisfy the 5 representations Takeshita shows above.

This article and its use of quantitative research elaborately shows how the misrepresentation of births in the media effects how woman have agency in their own birth stories.


Shows such as The Great Health Journey (TGHJ) promote unrealistic and potentially harmful ideals for the normal population. This is elaborated on and researched by Göran Eriksson in his research article Promoting extreme fitness regimes through the communicative affordances of reality makeover television: a multimodal critical discourse analysis. He elaborates that a new ideal is rising, promoted by media, in which

Fitness appears as a desired lifestyle and the fit body as the moral “super value” of our time indicating a good and responsible citizen.

Eriksson uses tools from the Multimodal Critical Discourse Analysis and qualitative data to analyze TGHJ. He uses the choices of what the producers included, cut choices, music placement, etc to create certain meanings to infuse to the audience and effect change of thinkings.

The show, by reproducing the notions of fitnessism and promoting the dubious ideal of the super body, turns the human body into a sign which serves the logic of commercial exploitation, rather than peoples’ health.

This analysis shows that the media promoting this kind of thinking can promote body dissatisfaction, eating disorders, bodily imbalances, absence of menstruation, and even osteoporosis. This article and its use of qualitative research shows how careful, considerate media representation in fitness and health is imperative to a healthy society.

Which method was clearer?

While both articles propose compelling research, the quantitative method elaborates more clearly on the issue of home-births. By showing exact numbers of the effects, it is easier to see the impact of media on life situations and issues.

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