Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

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

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Abstract:  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.

Keywords:  digital motherhood practices; Douyin; labor; stay-at-home mothers; vlog



© Guanqin He, Koen Leurs, Yongjian Li. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.