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Broadcasting Birth Control

Broadcasting Birth Control: Mass Media and Family Planning

Manon Parry
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 210
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  • Book Info
    Broadcasting Birth Control
    Book Description:

    Traditionally, the history of the birth control movement has been told through the accounts of the leaders, organizations, and legislation that shaped the campaign. Recently, historians have begun examining the cultural work of printed media, including newspapers, magazines, and even novels in fostering support for the cause.Broadcasting Birth Controlbuilds on this new scholarship to explore the films and radio and television broadcasts developed by twentieth-century birth control advocates to promote family planning at home in the United States, and in the expanding international arena of population control.Mass media, Manon Parry contends, was critical to the birth control movement's attempts to build support and later to publicize the idea of fertility control and the availability of contraceptive services in the United States and around the world. Though these public efforts in advertising and education were undertaken initially by leading advocates, including Margaret Sanger, increasingly a growing class of public communications experts took on the role, mimicking the efforts of commercial advertisers to promote health and contraception in short plays, cartoons, films, and soap operas. In this way, they made a private subject-fertility control-appropriate for public discussion.Parry examines these trends to shed light on the contested nature of the motivations of birth control advocates. Acknowledging that supporters of contraception were not always motivated by the best interests of individual women, Parry concludes that family planning advocates were nonetheless convinced of women's desire for contraception and highly aware of the ethical issues involved in the use of the media to inform and persuade.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-6153-0
    Subjects: Health Sciences, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Chapter 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-11)

    In 1967, Walt Disney Studios, in collaboration with the Population Council, released an animated movie calledFamily Planning.This extraordinary film, which was translated into twenty-three languages and was distributed widely in Asia and Latin America, features Donald Duck at an artist’s easel illustrating the burdens of unlimited reproduction and the technologies of birth control while a narrator describes the benefits of limiting family size. America’s beloved cartoon duck was put to work to promote the use of contraception as part of an international movement against overpopulation that flourished in the 1960s and 1970s, but the film is part of...

  6. Chapter 2 Battling Silence and Censorship
    (pp. 12-44)

    Publicity lay at the heart of Margaret Sanger’s approach during the early days of the campaign to legalize birth control. She considered “agitation through violation of the law” the vital first step in a long-term strategy.² Despite the Comstock Law of 1873, which banned the dissemination of contraceptive information, manufacturers had continued to advertise methods to prevent and end pregnancy under the euphemism “female hygiene,” but because the illegal trade was unregulated, customers ran the risk of purchasing ineffective or even dangerous products. Although Sanger was publicly dismissive of these black-market peddlers, privately she supported their work.³ The movement’s first...

  7. Chapter 3 The Medium Shapes the Message
    (pp. 45-75)

    At the end of World War II, Planned Parenthood had to redefine its role. Communications experts, who had benefited from the wartime need for propaganda, required a new focus in the postwar period. Experts on public opinion who had specialized in promoting the image of American activities now hoped to find a purpose for mass persuasion in peacetime. In a return to the concerns of an earlier era, demographers, economists, and politicians began to express anxiety about the rate of reproduction among the poor, this time not just at home but around the world. Overpopulation threatened to spark new wars...

  8. Chapter 4 “Most of the World’s People Need Planned Parenthood”
    (pp. 76-110)

    In the early years of the postwar period, U.S. family planning promoters dramatically expanded their activities beyond the borders of their nation.¹ Under the threat of a global “population explosion,” their interests began to coalesce with the foreign policy concerns of the U.S. government. As a result, organizations were permitted to promote their cause through federal channels. The government not only opened its airwaves to the issue but also got into the business itself by providing funding explicitly for the development of family planning media. The government’s motivation, the overpopulation issue, heavily influenced their message, which focused on the economic...

  9. Chapter 5 Soap Opera as Soap Box: Family Planning and the Telenovela
    (pp. 111-128)

    In the years after this purported exchange with the giant of North American communications theory, theater director and television producer Miguel Sabido became famous for his prosocial (meaning positive social effects) model of persuasive media communication in entertainment television. As the previous chapters have shown, family planning promoters had long been interested in the possibility of converting their messaging from educational sources to forms of mass entertainment in order to maximize audiences and increase impact. Internationally, there had been numerous efforts in the postwar period to use commercial venues, from television networks in Brazil to cinemas across India, where a...

  10. Chapter 6 Twenty-First-Century Sex: The Small Screen
    (pp. 129-144)

    Thanks to the use of sex in commercial broadcasts, entertainment media has offered a wealth of opportunities to incorporate family planning messaging over the last forty years. In the 1970s, researchers studying television began reporting that the number of references to sex was increasing each year in network programming. In the 1980s, the types of representations changed from allusions to sex or sexual innuendo to direct depictions of sexual acts. Even as the culture wars raged, the amount of sexual content on television continued to rise steeply. Studies recorded an average of ten portrayals of sex per hour of prime-time...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 145-172)
  12. Index
    (pp. 173-192)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 193-196)