Bethany Johnson

Nov 18, 2021

About Maternal Health Studies

A Conversation with Bethany Johnson


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Welcome to The Academic Life! In this episode you’ll hear about: Bethany Johnson’s simultaneous journey through graduate school and motherhood, her struggles with infertility, the history of birth-care access, why Black women have worse maternal health outcomes, the consequences for pregnant people in a pregnancy-surveillance culture, and a discussion of the book You’re Doing it Wrong: Mothering, Media, and Medical Expertise.

Today’s book is: You’re Doing it Wrong: Mothering, Media, and Medical Expertise by Bethany L. Johnson and Margaret M. Quinlan, which explores how new mothers face a barrage of confounding decisions. Whatever they “choose,” experts ranging from health practitioners to social media influencers tell them they’re making mistakes. Johnson and Quinlan draw from their own experiences, the history of mothering advice from the newspapers, magazines, doctors’ records and personal papers of the nineteenth-century to today’s websites and Instagram feeds. Johnson and Quinlan find surprising parallels between today’s mothering experts and their Victorian counterparts, and explore how social media pressures pregnant people, even as it offers social support.

Our guest is: Bethany L. Johnson, a doctoral student in the history of science, technology and the environment at the University of South Carolina and an associate member to the graduate faculty and research affiliate faculty in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her research examines medical technologies and public health policies as tools of institutional power from the 19th-century to the present, with a focus on epidemics and reproductive health. She has published in journals such as Health Communication, Women & Language, Departures in Critical Qualitative Research, Journal of Holistic Nursing, and Women's Reproductive Health. She is the co-author of You’re Doing it Wrong! Mothering, Media and Medical Expertise.

Our host is: Dr. Christina Gessler, co-producer of the Academic Life.

Listeners to this episode might also be interested in:

--Dr. Quinlan and Bethany Johnson’s Medical “Humanities Mamas” articles for Psychology Today 

--Dr Quinlan and Bethany Johnson’s website, including their greeting cards for people experiencing infertility 

--This website by a pregnant graduate student

--The Unequal Impact of Parenthood in Academia

--Fixing Parental Leave: The Six Month Solution, by Gayle Kaufman

--“Families Devalued: Black Academic Women and the Neoliberal Era’s Family Tariff,” in Lean Semesters, by Sekile M. Nzinga

--I Had a Miscarriage, by Dr. Jessica Zucker

--You’re the Only One I’ve Told: The Stories Behind Abortion, by Dr. Meera Shah

--Our interview about gender-free childrearing

You are smart and capable, but you aren’t an island and neither are we. We reach across our mentor network to bring you podcasts on everything from how to finish that project, to how to take care of your beautiful mind. Wish we’d bring on an expert about something? DM us on Twitter: The Academic Life @AcademicLifeNBN.

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Christina Gessler

Dr. Christina Gessler holds a PhD in U.S. history.
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