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236 Chapter 20 Women go through intense role modification when they become pregnant and prepare for motherhood. From a sociological perspective, women typically begin a process of anticipatory socialization, or information-seeking practices, prior to giving birth. Women research the numerous aspects of pregnancy, childbirth, and childrearing.1 Throughout this personal journey, women utilize widely varying sources of information, including popular and well-known texts like What to Expect When You’re Expecting, obstetricians, mothers, print and television media, support networks like La Leche League, and what feminist psychoanalyst Suzie Orbach refers to as “visual muzak,” the pervasive media that people encounter on a daily basis without consciously consuming it. Each resource is likely to provide differing facts and perspectives when it comes to what women should expect during their pregnancies and what society expects of them once they become mothers.2 The mass media have significant effects on human behavior and thought. The type of information that women receive regarding their bodies mediates behaviors and attitudes concerning breastfeeding. While some studies have examined the effectiveness of targeted health campaigns, and other studies have examined the effects of the media on body image, very few have tackled health messages in more popular forms of media.3 This lack of attention is unfortunate given the fact that various scholars have found that women turn to magazines for general health information and that pregnant women, especially, use written media (including magazines) as their predominant source of information. Others have concluded that the vast majority of women who chose to bottle-feed with formula indicated that they would have been more likely to Rethinking the Importance of Social Class How Mass Market Magazines Portray Infant Feeding N. Danielle Duckett Rethinking the Importance of Social Class 237 attempt and maintain breastfeeding if more information had been available through the media. Previous research has demonstrated the effects of the media on behavior. Low breastfeeding rates among working-class consumers of particular forms of media are not surprising in the context of information suggesting that working-class bodies are less capable of adequately nourishing an infant. This study examines those media messages to determine social class bias, as previous studies have already established the effect of media on mothers’ behaviors.4 Social Class For the purposes of this chapter, the term “social class” does not refer only to a calculation of approximate annual income or occupational prestige, although these measures are useful. Instead, I use “social class” to refer to the “set of experiences and strategies for approaching life that is carried into the home.” This view of social class is common; studies point to the effects of social class as an “external force” that strongly influences individual decisions, family structure, child-rearing practices, and even “patterns of mass media behavior in the home.”5 Income difference is a shorthand method of categorizing people into different social classes: the amount of income a family brings in affects the number of luxuries they claim, the types of products (food and otherwise) they can afford, the quality of education they attain, and so on. In this sense, social class differences become cultural differences as life opportunities create income-defined subcultures. This particular definition of social class is important in areas such as marketing and consumer research. In their study of “Yankee City,” which examines the details of social life in a New England town, anthropologists W. Lloyd Warner and Paul Lunt discovered that members of different social classes spent their money differently, displayed different purchasing goals, and made purchases in distinctive ways. This finding demonstrates that social classes are not merely status groups; they are also “motivational groupings” that therefore “cause, not merely correlate, consumption choice.”6 Social class mediates perceptions of fit mothers. Even a cursory examination of the ways in which the media portray motherhood shows a strong middle- and upper-class bias. Middle- and upper-class individuals as represented on television and in magazine articles and illustrations are prettier, taller, skinnier, happier, and seem to be more capable of taking care of their children and their children’s problems than their working-class counterparts.7 In her book discussing the commercial exploitation of the human body, Suzie Orbach points out the imperfections that affect ordinary people in relation to the perfectly lit, professionally trained, airbrushed ideals presented in mass media contexts. Although everyone experiences this sense of imperfection, access to resources allows some members of society to approach the ideal...


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