The Newsmedia, Emergent Frames Representing a 'new' Violence, and Audience Reactions: The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Presents Obstetric Violence.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 09:30
Oral Presentation
Nicole HILL, University of Alberta, Canada
Obstetric violence, a ‘new’ form of gender violence which is enacted on birthing bodies through health care workers and systems, has been problematized globally in recent years through the inclusion of the term in bodies of law in several nations, as well as statements from groups including the World Health Organization, which identifies disrespect and abuse in facility-based childbirth as an issue of public health and human rights occurring around the globe. In Canada there has been little attention paid to obstetric violence until recently when the national public broadcaster, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), published a series of reports on the topic describing individuals’ personal accounts of being subjected to violence, as well as comments and a prepared statement from the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada which suggest that the issue “has not come up” and that it is a concern in places where women are “devalued.”

This presentation uses multiple data sources including the series of CBC publications on obstetric violence, related social media posts, and online reader commentary to those posts in order to analyze the emergent representation of the issue of obstetric violence by the newsmedia, as well as reactions to this representation. Cultural studies has demonstrated that representations matter. Through qualitative analysis, this presentation discusses how obstetric violence is being represented and how these representations are being received, including the representation of victims and perpetrators, as well as the contexts in which it occurs. By also examining audience reactions, this presentation can reflect on the relationship between media representations and audience decoding of representations presented by media. Preliminary analysis reveals that though the publications problematize obstetric violence, the representations individualize events, which may render the challenge toothless in terms of critical analysis situated in an understanding of institutionalized systemic gender violence.