Researching Motherhood in the Age of Short Videos: Stay‐at‐Home Mothers in China Performing Labor on Douyin

Guanqin He*, Koen Leurs, Yongjian Li

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
129 Downloads (Pure)


Addressing the particular context of China, this article has two aims. First, it offers reflections on the possibilities and limitations of using user-generated short videos (vlogs) as research data both methodologically and ethically. We specifically explore the potential of centering vlogs as a new format for examining motherhood behavior across online and offline spaces. Secondly, it adds to the thematic literature on the (re)production and representations of motherhood. We critically examine the rising phenomenon in China of the stay-at-home mother, by exploring how these mothers use short video platforms. Inductively learning from the thematic analysis of short videos of stay-at-home mothers published on Douyin, the patterns in the data indicate three distinct forms of labor are performed through digital motherhood practices: domestic labor, affective labor, and entrepreneurial labor. Drawing on these patterns, we update the original framework of “motherhood 2.0,” which was coined in the 2010s to address mothering practices in industrialized western societies. We extend this framework and conceptualize “motherhood 3.0” by analyzing a type of Chinese community-based intersectional performance of motherhood, gender, and labor that we see emerging in digital cultural production centered on short videos. Mediated labor within online and offline motherhood practices is informed by social, cultural, and technological factors. Digital technologies and mobile media communication provide new means for stay-at-home mothers to navigate between their roles as devoted mothers and their pursuit of self-actualization.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-289
Number of pages17
JournalMedia and Communication
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 28 Sept 2022

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© 2022 by the author(s); licensee Cogitatio (Lisbon, Portugal).

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