Legitimizing “Baby Brain”: Tracing a Rhetoric of Significance Through Science and the Mass Media

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Abstract:

The discursive construction of “baby brain” functions to legitimize gender stereotypes and deflect attention from a host of material conditions that influence how women experience pregnancy and motherhood. This essay focuses on how the baby brain myth gains public legitimacy by tracing and analyzing its recent emergence in both scientific and mass mediated discourse. I argue that the myth gained legitimacy through a rhetoric of significance—one that conflates statistical significance and functional significance—that operates in both science and media discourse. In the conclusion, I offer an alternative interpretation of baby brain's cause, one that highlights the social structures that make pregnancy and motherhood difficult.

Keywords: News Media; Pregnancy; Rhetoric; Science; Significance

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14791420.2011.619202

Publication date: December 1, 2011

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