Lately there has been a lot of buzz about a woman in Ohio who is suing a sperm bank for inseminating her with a different donor sperm than the one she had requested. While these are the facts of the story, there are several ways in which this story is being framed, and it is important to understand the ways in which it’s being done.
One important thing to know about this controversy is that the way the woman and her partner were able to tell the sperm was not from the donor they requested was because their requested donor was a white male, and their daughter is clearly biracial. Understandably, race has become a huge focus point in this story, but it may also be creating a frame for the story that might not be the only way to look at it.
In one article, the headline reads “White Lesbian Upset after Being Inseminated With Sperm from Black Man.” Right off the bat the story is framed as a white woman being upset she was inseminated with a black man’s sperm. But what if the title read “Negligent Sperm Bank Inseminates Woman with the Wrong Sperm.” Both of these articles would most likely contain the same information and facts, but through simple differences in things like word choice, they would tell a completely different story.
Framing is all about taking certain facts from a story and focusing on them more as a way to tell it and change the way it’s perceived in the public eye. Let’s take a look at one of the first sentences in this article and see what kind of buzzwords are helping to frame this issue.
“Jennifer Cramblett, who happens to be a lesbian, claims that she is happy with her half-black child, Payton, who is now 2 years old, but specifically ordered sperm from a white donor so that the child would not have to put up with racial discrimination when it got older.”
First of all, take note of the fact it is explicitly mentioned that the woman is a lesbian. Even if it is not one of the focus points in the rest of the story, it immediately triggers a stigma in certain people about same sex parenting. And for people who have certain beliefs about this, it can shape how they will view the woman through the rest of the story. Next, look at the use of the word “claims.” “Jennifer Cramblett….claims that she is happy with her half-black child.” The writers don’t say that Cramblett “said” she was happy with her child, she “claimed” it as if it were not actually true. And why would it only be a claim? Because the child is “half-black.”
The story is even framed with the choice of quotes included. I’m willing to bet Cramblett and her partner said plenty of things about how much they love their daughter or how negligent it was of the sperm bank to mix up their paperwork, but all the quotes that are included are about their fears that their daughter will be discriminated against because of her skin color, or how the white mothers don’t know how to properly do their biracial daughters hair, and many other things that make the entire issue about race.
I’m not saying race doesn’t play a role in all of this, but it’s important to recognize the picture that is being painted for us as news consumers. We are only made to see a racist lesbian parent instead of a dissatisfied sperm bank customer. Frames placed on an issue can affect what we perceive as the issue, so it is important to be able to break down those frames and see the facts of a case and put our own frame on it.