In Praise of Beyonce’s Joyful Pregnancy
We, like most consumers of culture and social media, are fans of Beyonce for a myriad of reasons. She’s the world’s greatest living performer, the rare artist who grows bolder and braver as she reaches the peak of her career (we’re still reeling from the masterpiece that is ‘Lemonade’), a savvy business woman, and a leader of dialogue around social issues in our society.
But in the past few months, we’ve found even more reasons to love Beyonce—a feat we never dreamed was possible. Back in February Queen Bey famously proclaimed that her family was expanding by two. We were, as the kids say, 'shook.' This news and the ways in which she’s chosen to celebrate her pregnancy—the announcement photos that broke the internet, the epic Grammy’s performance, and her sporadic bursts of Instagram collages showing off her chic maternity looks—of course, made headlines, and inspired countless internet memes and thousands of think-pieces. From brunch to the water-cooler, we all had something new and buzzy to discuss.[caption id='attachment_13620' width='640'] Left: A photo from Beyonce's maternity shoot. Right: A still from her Grammy performance where she chaneled Nigerian fertility goddess Oshun.[/caption]
But online and in real life, we noticed some minor but still dismaying backlash about how Beyonce chose to celebrate this news. Pregnancy is, of course, an intensely personal journey and every woman has the right to share as much or as little about her experience as she chooses. This is something that Beyonce, who notoriously refuses to give interviews, understands. The fact that the private superstar, who has previously discussed her fertility struggles and faced cruel rumors about the legitimacy of her first pregnancy, was being so open and proud of her pregnancy definitely came as a shock. It also happened to rub some people the wrong way.
'She acts like she’s the first woman to ever give birth. I’ve had three kids and you don’t see me making this big of a fuss,' we once heard in conversation. Circling back to the basic idea that every woman has the right to decide how she handles her own pregnancy, the sentiment that Beyonce was somehow being too loud or bold in her celebration is absolutely insidious. Carrying a child—let alone two—is an incredible feat that every woman should be able to shout about from the rooftops if she pleases.
More importantly, given her status and her rising social awareness embodied by her visual album 'Lemonade'—which serves as both a personal piece of work and an ode to the experience of black womanhood—Beyonce’s pregnancy is emblematic of more than just her own experience. Her celebration is one of black motherhood. That’s why in her series of pregnancy photos and her Grammys performance she drew on symbols of femininity and womanhood spanning the black experience, including the Nigerian fertility goddess Oshun.
Many great pieces have discussed the historical context of black motherhood in America: from the lack of ownership of their bodies and children enslaved women felt, to the wide-reaching stereotypes of black mothers being single, uneducated, and financially unable to care fo their children. What Beyonce offers is a much needed counter narrative—a strong and inspiring version of black motherhood that is joyful, proud, celebratory and successful. From Lemonade to the Grammys she's made it a point to highlight the cross-generational bonds between mother and child, as well as the traditions and legacies passed down over the centuries. Beyonce is truly celebrating all the mothers who have come before her, and the various trials and tribulations they have survived, and all the mothers to come.