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  • Reproductive Rights Issues in Popular Media: International Perspectives ed. by Waltraud Maierhofer and Beth Widmaier Capo
  • Wonneken Wanske
Waltraud Maierhofer and Beth Widmaier Capo, editors. Reproductive Rights Issues in Popular Media: International Perspectives. McFarland, 2017. 227 pp. Paper, $49.95.

Waltraud Maierhofer and Beth Widmaier Capo's edited volume offers a comparative view on the international landscape of representations of reproductive rights in contemporary popular media. The collection of twelve essays begins with a brief introduction by Widmaier Capo in which she outlines the goals of this volume and ties the essays together. Through their selection of essays, the editors give voice to compelling answers to the question of why representations of birth control, in contrast to depictions of sex, have been largely absent from popular media. Their volume provides its readers with examples of how contraception, abortion, and birth control are represented in popular media, and, if they are left out, what this omission might mean.

The first section devotes four chapters to examining depictions of contraception in television, cinema, visual culture, and social media. Jessica Borge starts the section off by elucidating how contraceptives were portrayed in British cinema and television in the 1960s and why they were or were not included on-screen. Markus Schleich and Jonas Nesselhauf pick up Borge's focus on on-screen portrayals of contraceptives in their discussion of the birth control pill in contemporary US television. Jamie Wagman examines how marketing campaigns and other visual representations have shaped the public's view of the pill in the US from the 1960s onward. Manon S. Parry rounds out this section with her analysis of how contraception is portrayed on social media and the extent to which social media facilitate the inclusion of the perspectives of contraceptive users, who have otherwise been seen as passive media consumers in discussions about family planning.

In the following part, two essays analyze stories of forced abortion by the state. Regina Range investigates how the Austrian-Jewish writer Gina Kaus dealt with unwanted pregnancy and its consequences, including interventions by the state, in her literary and filmic works. Kirsten E. Kumpf Baele and Sofie Decock show the negative consequences of a forced adoption arrangement for unwed mothers in the 1970s in Belgium in Patrice Toye's Little Black Spiders.

The third section of the volume continues to deal with the way family planning and reproductive rights have been shaped and infringed upon by the state. Belinda Carstens-Wickham draws a parallel between former [End Page 169] East German attitudes toward reproductive rights and the last moments of the GDR in the film Jana and Jan. Waltraud Maierhofer turns to a more lighthearted genre of film in her investigation of how humor is used to portray the oftentimes controversial topic of birth control in recent British, Croatian, American, and German films.

In the penultimate section, a theme that weaves through most of the chapters in this volume is taken up again when Waltraud Maierhofer and Shelley W. Chan discuss whether abortion is viewed as a reproductive choice, duty, or crime. Maierhofer analyzes films from Romania and Mexico and social media storytelling about reproductive rights. Chan's look at the connection between China's one-child policy, abortion, unplanned birth, and child abandonment in Mo Yan's fiction gives insight into what can happen when a state directly intervenes in family planning.

The last section of the volume remembers the important legacies of Margaret Sanger and Carl Djerassi in the realm of birth control. Beth Widmaier Capo sheds light on Sanger's often controversial portrayal in the media with regard to her dual legacy as a proponent of reproductive rights and of eugenics. Walter Grünzweig gives voice to the Austrian-American chemist Carl Djerassi, who was an influential figure in the development of the pill.

This volume will be of interest not only to scholars looking for an intersectional discussion of reproductive rights issues in an international context but also to audiences looking to see how different media genres tackle a controversial topic and what we can learn from the media's influence on and representation of family planning.

Wonneken Wanske
Rhodes College


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pp. 169-170
Launched on MUSE
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