YouTube: a new space for birth?
Longhurst, R. (2009). YouTube: a new space for birth? Feminist Review, 93, 46-63.
Permanent Research Commons link: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/4074
Birth, in many societies, is considered to be a private affair. Although health and medical professionals usually assist, the only other people who share the birth process with mothers are their nearest and dearest. With the rise of information communication technologies, however, birth is no longer an exclusively private event. Some women are now sharing their birthing experiences with millions of viewers who are part of the online video ‘community’ YouTube Broadcast Yourself. Searching the word ‘birth’ on YouTube results in close to one million ‘hits’. This article is based on a small-scale, qualitative research project, which involved viewing and making notes on several hundred online videos of birth on YouTube and the accompanying posts and commentaries about the videos. These data were analysed through a feminist, poststructuralist and geographical lens. Throughout the article the term ‘cyber/space’ is used to highlight the mutually constituted nature of ‘real’ and virtual spaces. The article concludes that although YouTube has the potential to open up new windows on birth, this potential is not yet being realized. YouTube does not overcome or render insignificant material expressions of power, instead it typically privileges US experiences of birth, reiterates discourses of ‘good’ mothering and censors particular (mainly vaginal) representations of birth.