Panel 5: Gender and Care

Tuesday 6 September, 2016

By Gaby Smith and Zoë Shacklock


  • Kristyn Gorton (York), ‘Nurse Jackie and discourses of care on TV’
  • Susan Berridge (Stirling), ‘Gendered discourses of childcare in the UK film industry’
  • Hilary C. Aquino (Albright College), ‘“Mother knows best” Selling public heath with 1950s femininity’



– Uses of the television character to help understand the implicit nature of care, anxiety and emotion in a context of neoliberalism.

-How childcare affects and prohibits some from  working with the Film/TV sector, and childcare is not solely a women’s responsibility.

-Medicine and healthcare for television audiences in 1950’s U.S. society; how women pioneered mainstream practices of TV health shows.

Kristyn Gorton highlights that we can, and often perceive care as a feeling, but also as an anxiety. In a discussion of how practices of care can be transgressive, this paper delves into care-giving in a neoliberal landscape, as seen on television in programmes such as Nurse Jackie, and Enlightened.  Talking of Nurse Jackie, she uses the description of her as ‘a care giver, who cares too much. She overcares.’ Following the character of Jackie, a woman who works in a public hospital, but who also has a drug addiction – the contrasting personality between her nursing, caring self and her double life of drugs, affairs speaks to a good mother/ bad mother dichotomy, not to mention the risk we take when we care.

Care is negotiated in this programme in a very interesting and engaging manner- Gorton notes that Jackie is often pegged as the flawed character. Through a neoliberal rhetoric, the expectations for the character are highlighted here in a way that draws the audience in, through the saint/sinner personality. The theoretical work on care speak to this- as Mol, Ingunn and Pols argue, ‘good and bad may be intertwined; good intentions may have bad effects.’

There are too, the moral boundaries that often govern care. As Tronto argues, ‘care as practice involves more than simply good intentions. In such, the unknown carer, shows Jackie doing more than her job requires. Issues of performance in neoliberal economies are also challenged by the series, and Jackie’s need for escape, her role as a mother and the wider demands on a woman in her situation show Jackie as an embodiment of this subject, Gorton says.


Susan Berridge discusses industry reports that have highlighted the general lack of women working within the Film/ TV sector. Whilst she notes that they are generally better represented in television, it is fair to say they are often not seen in higher or more senior roles. Why is this? Berridge explains that usually women cite that childcare is the reason.

She notes that a risk that we might perpetuate is the essentialist notion that caring for children is, and should be, a women’s responsibility. Her work centres around this gender discrimination and how it is notable that women are disproportionately affected by this. In exploring the experiences of balancing care with work, Raising Films helps to challenge the demands of the film industry whilst supporting parents and carers to stay in work in this sector. There are women with care responsibilities who work across a range of roles in the Film and TV industry, and although discourses of care that emerge in this context discuss care on a practical level, there are of course the emotional aspects of care, and the inherent difficulties in talking about this.

Problems cites that disadvantages those with childcare problems are wide and speak of the inconsistency of this type of labour, the long hours, little money, as well as the difficulty in taking time off. A toll overall on family relationships, creative work is often also viewed as a hobby, or something indulgent which also speaks to a lack of maternity rights more broadly.

Freelance contracts too, speak to informal recruitment processes which make it difficult to speak out against gender discrimination and inequalities. No-one wants to be seen as ‘rocking the boat’. In creating a context in which care responsibilities are rendered unspeakable (Gill) this type of childcare also reinforces neoliberal ideologies about responsibilities in the workplace.

In addressing issues of access to the sector, especially ones that women face the messier or more difficult aspects around care still remain unspeakable. Pregnancy, childhood and emotional challenges of care, show the emotional and practical hardships of working and balancing childcare as discussed by Berridge. The examples shown in the testimonials speak to a similar frustration of care at work, and at home. This can lead to self-blame, rather than an interrogation of the structural systems in the workplace. There isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ type of care.

Hilary Aquino discusses a discourse of care, Cold War public health in America, and how medicine was integrated within mass media during this time. Given the status of these powerful industries, consumer programming, media and medicine were a highly effective tool that were harnessed by Dr. Leona Baumgartner in the daytime US programme Home in the 1950’s.

In using the screen, the right of the individual to determine his or her healthcare choices, compelled to embrace health norms Dr Baumgartner used radio and television as vehicles in which to deliver her messages of health to the wider public. She was an innovator in this manner, by combining public healthcare with media tools and technology to reach a large audience. In mixing traditional feminist approaches to communication with new media, she helped to pioneer the practice of this in the mainstream.

Her interesting approach in displaying a maternal figure who dispensed useful, medical, and professional advice in a softer way- – she understood that tv had the power as a device to do this. Aquino refers to Arlene Francis, who she says had the ‘approachability’ factor, making the Home show a perfect place for publicity, and sponsorship with a weekly budget of $50,000.  This both challenged and reflected cold war attitudes of women in America during this time, but also required a certain engagement with a performative femininity as hosts of the show- from magazines to television shows.

In replicating a cultural hegemony, the vital lessons of healthcare provided by Dr Baumgartner helped women to put healthcare into their own hands and gave them their own agency. As a crusader for the expansion of healthcare, she armed women with the knowledge to participate on a more even level- healthcare messages disguised as domestic consumerism.


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Panel 6: Assistive Technology and Care

Tuesday 6th September

By Zoë Shacklock and Gaby Smith

  • Anna Piccoli (University of Amsterdam): Are Digital Platforms and Touchscreen Devices Effective Caretakers? The Touch-and-go of Visually Impaired Users
  • Bonnie Millar and Derek Hoare (NIHR Nottingham Hearing Biomedical Research Unit): Discourses of Care and Sonic Media
  • Kerr Castle (University of Glasgow): TV, Or Not TV: The Practitioner’s Approach to Audio Description (AD) and Transforming Television

Takeaway points:

  • People with various sensory impairments use everyday technologies in adaptive ways
  • We cannot make assumptions about who can or cannot use certain technologies, or what sorts of sensory experiences are more authentic
  • Technologically-mediated care practices can be sites of creative agency, storytelling, and empowerment

Anna Piccoli debunked the widespread belief that touchscreen devices cannot be used by visually impaired people, demonstrating widespread use of such devices amongst the visually impaired in Italy and the Netherlands. Her interviewees suggested that touchscreen devices allowed access to feelings of independence and empowerment, through allowing them to carry out everyday activities independently (like dressing, grocery shopping, or texting). As well as these instrumental forms of care, digital devices open up affective forms of care, helping visually impaired users maintain social ties and feel connected to the world around them. They can also act as a form of ‘camouflage’, allowing users pass in a world in which everyone is digitally connected. Piccoli concludes by suggesting that digital devices are ‘relievers’, relieving the cared-for from their need for constant care, and relieving the carer from their duties.

Moving on to a different sensory category, Bonnie Millar introduced us to her research (with Derek Hoare, who could not be present) on how people suffering from tinnitus use sonic media as a form of care. This includes white noise, radios, music, or other audio tracks. They collected medical questionnaires from people with tinnitus, analysing the language in their stories to consider how they perceived this treatment. Interestingly, the most therapeutic sonic treatments were linked with the intimate and the everyday – conversation, running water, kettles boiling, soft music. Millar highlights the limitations the questionnaire format places on how sufferers can describe their experiences, and suggests that increasing the vocabularies through which people can tell their stories may help alleviate their feelings of suffering.

Finally, Kerr Castle rounds out our sensory panel with a discussion of audio description on television, in which television’s images are described for a visually impaired audience. Castle interviewed audiovisual translator  Jonathan Penny about the challenges of audio description – how does an able-bodied person describe images and action for an audience who processes information differently? Castle stresses the creative and expressive role of the translator, who must ensure that their description fits between dialogue but leaves space for silence, and describes the physical signifiers of emotion in a way that allows the audience to  make their own inferences. Castle concludes by suggesting that television audiovisual translation differs from that of the cinema: where the latter uses more disembodied descriptions of mise-en-scéne, television AVT is more intimate and familiar. The television audiovisual translator becomes a companion to the audience, sitting along them on the couch.

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Plenary session: Sara Harkins and Maria McGill in conversation with Amy Holdsworth.

Monday 5 September, 2016.

By Gaby Smith and Zoë Shacklock


– Media producers have a huge duty of care: to the audience, to their colleagues, to their participants.

-Discussion around what sorts of responsibilities do we have to talk about death and dying? Questioning what duty the BBC has as a public service broadcaster.

-Working on material that engages with difficult subject matter, both McGill and Harkins single out trust as the most important value when combining care practices with mediated practices


Speaking in conversation with Amy Holdsworth, Sara Harkins (BBC Scotland) and Maria McGill (Children’s Hospice Association), the plenary session commenced with a showreel of current and past projects seen on BBC. This included short clips from Scottish soap River City,  as well as Children in Need, Life Babble, and the CBeebies programme My Pet and Me. Crucially, the television examples all touched upon life and the experiences of children and children’s hospices, who deal with issues surrounding end of life care- as seen on location at Robin House Hospice, near Balloch.

Collaborating with CHAS, the BBC were invited to see what this hospice was all about, when it was founded, as well as understand a bit more about death and dying, and what does this mean for the BBC as a public service broadcaster. More importantly, this raised the important question of how can the two come together?

Realising that there was a duty as a PSB, especially as this is a subject that is not spoken about as much as it could and should be, there was a feeling of entering into this conversation not only for young children but to the wider audiences overall.

Raising the important story of a child dying, is not an easy task. My Pet and Me was one of the first BBC programmes to champion the inclusion of Robin House, and issues faced by children and their families. The programme attempted to show parts of Abbie’s family life, her siblings and her pets albeit whilst in hospice care. Additionally, in telling this through screen drama via the storylines of popular soap River City, presented as an opportunity for Maria and her team to work closely with Sara, as well as other producers and scriptwriters. Making a story that was authentic and true was not only the main objective, but finding a way to show a caring representation helped to create a storyline that would potentially draw a wider audience as well.

With clear pressure to raise funds, there are many different layers to this process. Commenting that she feels a responsibility to the families and the ‘hidden’ children,  McGill views the Children In Need campaign as an opportunity to tell the experiences of a family, whilst highlighting and promoting the charity and their own grant from Children In Need appropriately. Working with the BBC in order to create ethical and excellent services for children was if anything enhanced by Robin House being seen on television. Hawkins too, speaks of the tricky conversation before entering into the filming of My Pet and Me.  An underlying issue was that this particular episode should be run past the family involved but also the involvement of CHAS. The episode, which featured Abbie who with a critical illness and shortened life-expectancy, showed how living a family life that involves hospice care might not be a normal experience for everyone, but for some this is a way of life. Done in a contemporary and playful way, the real experiences shown helped normalise this, whilst offering help and guidance to their wider audience.

What is vitally important is ‘getting out and about’. Sara Harkins mentions that actually visiting Robin House helped break the media bubble and engage with what is actually happening to real families on a daily basis. Maria McGill discusses the shared values and the relationship of trust that is imperative to this process of charity and media engagement.



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Panel 4: Popular Media Discourses of Care.

Monday 5 September, 2016

By Zoë Shacklock and Gaby Smith

  • Maggie Sweeney (University of the West of Scotland): “Failings in the Duty of Care”: Mediated Discourses on “Children at Risk”
  • Yvonne Cunningham (University of Glasgow): “I’ve Got Two Little Children and This is the Worst Thing That Could Happen”
  • Anna McFarlane (University of Glasgow): “An Alien Inside”: Science Fiction and Pregnancy in Anne Enright’s “Breeding” (2004)



-Discourses of care are inseparable from the mediated discourses in which they interact

-The mass media shapes the language we use to frame our understandings of care, powerfully impacting public perception

-These relationships are particularly important when they interact with mediated identity discourses, such as age, gender, or class

Maggie Sweeney discussed the ways in which the master narrative of childhood today is one of danger and risk. Framing childhood as precarious and vulnerable fuels high levels of anxiety about protection and wellbeing. Using Howard Becker’s idea of ‘labelling’, she explored how this narrative is perpetuated by the mass media. The media sets up particular frames of reference – failures of duties of care, children at risk – which influence both public perception and policy making. Sweeney discussed some of the more high-profile examples of child neglect in recent years, tracing the influence power of the language of the media.

Yvonne Cunningham also considered at the intersection between care discourses and the media, presenting a content analysis of cancer stories in UK newspapers. She found that two thirds of the stories focused on breast cancer, and an overwhelming number of these were personal stories. Since these stories focus on women’s experience, cancer stories intersect with caring discourses, with most of the women expressing their fears about how cancer will impact their ability to care for their children and families. Consequently, surviving cancer also means becoming a better carer. The stories emphasise the transformative power of cancer, in which women extend their affective capacity to become braver people who care for a bigger network of cancer suffers.

Anna McFarlane demonstrated how mainstream accounts of pregnancy leave little room for its more taboo elements – pain, horror, and loss. Yet science fiction has always provided a space to tell these sorts of stories, allowing culture (and women in particular) to engage with the horrors of giving the body over to another. Through a discussion of Anne Enright’s 2004 essay ‘Breeding‘ (which compares pregnancy with alien abduction), she explored how the language of science fiction gives us political tools, opening up a space to consider how dominant medical/political discourses impact upon our experiences of our own bodies.



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Panel 3: New Approaches and Methodologies to Care.

Monday 5 September, 2016

By Gaby Smith and Zoë Shacklock.

  • Ros Jennings and Hannah Grist (Gloucestershire), ‘Thinking with age in the UK care environment: an autoethnographic approach to the times and spaces of caring for older people’
  • Val Bogan (Dublin Institute of Technology), ‘The visualization of the presenting complaint: promoting patient agency and care in the diagnostic process’
  • Misha Kavka (Auckland), ‘Between ethics and affect: mediations of care’



–  Experiences of the UK care home environment from a personal and professional level opening up discussions of how we should approach our care of old people and adopt new nursing practices.

–  Digital devices and technology harnessed to provide patients with better care, and wider options in the process of diagnosing a patient.

– Issues of ethics of ‘affect’ are considered within a filmic or televisual examination of care, establishing an affective connection with patients/ carer/ victim.

-What we might ‘care’ for/about next, might not be recognised immediately as it takes new forms and shifts.


Speaking of their own experiences of working hourly rounds, doing early breakfast duties and calling in a doctor to administer morphine to residents in pain in care homes, a common memory of the blaring television is offered by both Ros and Hannah despite their years apart in the care sector. In the remembering of restless residents who were often singing, foot-tapping and having conversations over old TV favourite Stars In Their Eyes‘, the title makes reference to their unique role in care as staff, as academics and as humans who care.

Their work informs a wider understanding of the ethics of training and mode of care work that informs a necessary empathy, but also one that looks to build a stronger environment for carers and the cared for. In understanding care as a cultural practice which inform nursing models, there are underlying problems. Not only do some care workers often feel unprepared for care work, but worse still, un-nurtured when they get there.

Raising questions of a quantitive nature, the studies influencing the position of Val’s work refers to the ongoing development of medicine as a science, but also as an art. As a patient researcher, with aims to contribute to this field at the ‘soft’ end of science- in the developing of her own medical relationship with a surgeon, she feels she can personally vouch for her own academic understanding of a patient’s agency. Discussing issues of communication, dialogue and speech- there is a challenging of the idea of the ‘self’, and what the ‘self- care continuum’ can suggest, going beyond decisions of health to the assuming of responsibility.

Using Disney’s Big Hero 6 (2014), Misha explains that care has become big. Not only is the robot character of Baymax an emotional, caring and comedic one but he is one that evokes the way in which Television and Film has always incorporated the discourses of care at the heart of its narrative structure.

Distinguishing meanings of care through its etymological roots, the functional application of the term goes far beyond the semantic context. Questions raised about ethics and affect,  are addressed as care as an act and care as a feeling,  which can be seen in The Fundamentals of Caring (2016) and Me Before You (2016). Positioning care at the centre of media attention, the 2007 documentary by Paul Watson Malcolm and Barbara: Love’s Farewell shows an intimate examination of what it is to be a carer in a relationship, to return care without the same loving identity of the relationship that had previously existed, and the antagonism that is also involved in doing so.

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Panel 2: Education, Media, and Care.

Monday 5 September, 2016

By Gaby Smith and Zoë Shacklock.

  • Ben Lamb (Teeside), ‘Changing the welfare state: an investigation into the effects of alternative regional media on local services and recipients of care’
  • Christian Bonah and Joel Danet (Strasbourg), ‘Careful cinema: Educational utility film by and for physicians in France in the 1970s’
  • Nicole Matthews (Macquarie), ‘Teaching person-centred care for people with dementia through the “paranoid women’s film”’ (Skype)



-Using film, television, video (and literature) to challenge the discourses of care and engage with the difficult relationship on and off-screen.

-Cinema as a form of reconstituting the shared experience between patient/ doctor, cared for/ carer. In doing so, giving access to a person’s feelings.

–  Educational media material used for multiple reasons: to reflect, to teach, to educate and to cultivate feelings, empathy, care and understanding.


Panel 2 approached and challenged the varying discourses of care as seen on screen- with a particular focus on film, television, video. Ben Lamb‘s archival research and ongoing research discussed the work of Trade Films and Amber Films, honing in on the North East of England as a key case study. Reflecting on his current research, Lamb highlights to what extent regional media operating as mode of care through examples such as ‘OAPS‘, ‘Farewell to the Welfare State‘ and ‘Shield Stories‘. The latter example not only worked to remove the stigma of applying for help such as benefits, but through using the soap narrative and format which was to be screened in public spaces such as doctor’s surgeries- it was for all to see. (Sadly, the series was never broadcast as it was blocked by Local Authorities).

Using a small corpus of films identified as pertinent to this issue Christian Bonah and Joel Danet, find it not only interesting but highly important to theorise the question of audience- especially within the context of care. The films used are situated in this area of study, and seek to provide perspectives on educational and medical filmmaking as transitional objects of cinema. There is a wide gap between the field (where they are) and the theory (what they are confronted with).

Nicole Matthews discusses the concerns around an ‘uncomfortable’ pedagogy, person-centred care approaches, whilst drawing closely on the work of Tom Kitwood and contexts of malignant social psychology. She asks, what is the ‘paranoid women’s film’? Through thinking of Rebecca, the gothic genre and the idea of the imperilled woman playing out types of horror- care and the uncanniness of the space of the domestic are dominant themes of horror, the unsafe home and the gothic situation that ‘Darkness in the Afternoon’ explore.

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Panel 1: Cinema and Care.

Monday 5 September, 2016

By Zoë Shacklock and Gaby Smith.

  • Philippa Lovatt (Stirling): ‘Illness, Caregiving and Healing in the Films of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’
  • Suzanne Beth (McGill): ‘Ozu’s Tokyo Story: Care as the Medium’s Capacity to Bear’
  • Ana Salzberg (Dundee): ‘Care Home as Cinematic Community: Enhancing Social Connectivity Through Film’



-Care can be embedded within the formal features of cinema itself.

-The sensory, visceral experience of watching cinema parallels certain structures of care, and is in itself a form of care.

-Cinema’s relationship to care is heightened by its communal nature

Philippa Lovatt opened the panel with an astute discussion of Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s body of work, which is thematically concerned with questions of care-giving, illness, and healing. Weerasethakul is concerned with seeing illness as a natural part of life, rather than something to be avoided. Consequently his work almost becomes a therapeutic experience – one film critic even suggested that they should be available on prescription. Through an analysis of the embodied experience of engaging with film form, Lovatt suggested that Weerasethakul’s films encourage a structure of embodied accompaniment with a film, one that mirrors the rhythms and structures of palliative care, and which is emphasised when we watch these films with others.

Suzanne Beth picked up Lovatt’s interest in accompaniment, using Agamben’s idea of gesture to consider discourses of care in Yasujirō Ozu’s film Tokyo Story. Beth explored how the film presents conventional ideas of care at a narrative and thematic level. Yet she extends this framework to argue for care as gesture – a form of support/endurance rather than a form of production/action. She suggests that this aligns nicely with the cinematic medium itself, which also supports/endures the passage of time.

Finally, Ana Salzberg presented her fascinating research on how Scottish care facilities attempt to re-create the cinematic experience for residents as a way to prevent loneliness and boredom, and foster social connectivity. She suggests that recreating the sensory experience of the cinema – emphasised by the drawn curtains, popcorn, and big screen – allows residents to enter into particular pleasures of spectatorship. This intensifies certain emotions, memories and sensation, and enhances their present experience too, acting as a form of care towards present-day forms of embodiment and connection.


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