Beyond the good and the bad: A feminist reading of abortion's media representation in Vietnamese arthouse film, Dap Canh Giua Khong Trung

Author: Son Le

Le, Son, 2021 Beyond the good and the bad: A feminist reading of abortion's media representation in Vietnamese arthouse film, Dap Canh Giua Khong Trung, Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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Representations of abortion in the media, particularly film, are criticised predominantly within the binary of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ based on the reflections and evidence provided by medical and public health sectors. While I endorse the call for making media representations of abortion more diversely positive in order to combat the stigma surrounding this reproductive healthcare, it is worth looking for the potential to foster feminist media analysis and practices, particularly those produced in the Two-Third World. Đập cánh giữa không chung (Flapping in the middle of nowhere), the film chosen, is an arthouse film directed by a prominent woman director in Vietnam which received many honors and accolades including in the Venice International Film Festival in 2014. Constructing the narrative about the struggle to deal with an unintended pregnancy, the film shows the journey of a young Vietnamese woman living in the capital city navigating her way to having an abortion in the country where it was assumed to be accessible due to liberal abortion policies. In this paper, I argue that this film provides a critical counterhegemonic discourse to show the challenges Vietnamese young women have faced accessing abortions; challenges that include poverty, conscientious objection by medical doctors and the un-named social forces which I call "pro-fetus". Moreover, although the narrative ends up with an ambiguous destination for the protagonist's abortion, this thesis argues that it should not be categorized as a ‘bad’ media representation of abortion and an anti-abortion product. Instead, it works excellently as an epistemic tool to visualize the feminist relational approach to autonomy which resists the (neo) liberal discourse about accessing abortion from the state, as well as the manipulation of fetal imagery which does not uphold the anti-abortion meaning. By considering this possibility, I also suggest a potential way to looking forward to fostering abortion's right activism in my country.

Keywords: abortion, media, feminist, film, Vietnam

Subject: Women's Studies thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2021
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Laura Roberts