Test Cover Image of:  You're Doing it Wrong!

You're Doing it Wrong!

Mothering, Media, and Medical Expertise

New mothers face a barrage of confounding decisions during the life-cycle of early motherhood which includes... Should they change their diet or mindset to conceive? Exercise while pregnant? Should they opt for a home birth or head for a hospital? Whatever they “choose,” they will be sure to find plenty of medical expertise from health practitioners to social media “influencers” telling them that they’re making a series of mistakes. As intersectional feminists with two small children each, Bethany L. Johnson and Margaret M. Quinlan draw from their own experiences as well as stories from a range of caretakers throughout.

You’re Doing it Wrong! investigates the storied history of mothering advice in the media, from the newspapers, magazines, doctors’ records and personal papers of the nineteenth-century to today’s websites,Facebook groups, and Instagram feeds. Johnson and Quinlan find surprising parallels between today’s mothering experts and their Victorian counterparts, but they also explore how social media has placed unprecedented pressures on new mothers, even while it may function as social support for some. They further examine the contentious construction of prenatal and baby care expertise itself, as individuals such as everyone from medical professionals to experienced moms have competed to have their expertise acknowledged in the public sphere.

Exploring potential health crises from infertility treatments to “better babies” milestones, You’re Doing it Wrong! provides a provocative look at historical and contemporary medical expertise during conception, pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum, and infant care stages.

Author Information

BETHANY L. JOHNSON is an instructor in history 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.

MARGARET M. QUINLAN is an associate professor of communication studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.


“Through analyses of historical and contemporary cases, especially the careful study of social media and smart phone apps, Johnson and Quinlan raise important questions about expertise and power relations in defining the good mother.”
— Rima D. Apple, author of Perfect Motherhood: Science and Childbearing in America

"You're Doing It Wrong!: Mothering, Media, and Medical Expertise is a rare mix of historical, sociological, and media analysis that sheds light on the processes by which motherhood gets defined. We get a glimpse of the historical underpinnings of our relationship with medical expertise, and how media outlets create cultural consensus about mothering (if they do)."
— Julie Des Jardins, author of Women and the Historical Enterprise in America: Gender, Race, and the Politics of Memory

“Combining historical insights and of-the-minute analyses of social media platforms, Johnson and Quinlan persuasively argue for a rethinking of what we “know” about expertise and the often-fraught journey of early motherhood.”
— Kristin Celello, co-editor of Domestic Tensions, National Anxieties

Audience: General/trade;