No matter your age or how you identify, you’re likely a huge Beyonce fan. This year she released her documentary, “Homecoming,” on Netflix which followed her rehearsals and ultimate performance at Coachella (renamed Beychella by the Hive) in April of 2018 as the headliner. She also released her “Homecoming” album, which featured the remake of Maze and Frankie Beverley’s famous “Before I Let Go”, which was added to everyone’s playlists for family barbeques. Fast forward to now, there seems to be an obsession with picking apart celebrities’ Instagram photos, in particular Beyonce’s, to decide if she is “expecting” or not. The internet is pretty quick to turn little things into trending topics on Twitter, and recently, Beyonce’s “weight gain” has caused speculation.
Another Black woman that has once again taken over the industry is Rihanna. Her “Fenty Beauty” line continues to fly off the shelves of cosmetic stores and her fashion-line “Fenty” is growing. As she is busy building an empire, she recently hosted her charity Diamond Ball, and the talk surrounding her success this year was unmatched with the Internet’s rave about the appearance of her stomach. Once again, the question of if Rihanna was expecting became a worldwide conversation on social media.
But there was not much talk around how both of these women’s privacy was being invaded, considering that much of the pregnancy rumors were due to both women appearing to have gained weight. These reactions made me think about the motherhood mandate, specifically in Rihanna’s case. The mandate consists of the idea that bearing children is essential to a female’s life; not having children would challenge her womanhood. Motherhood is special to those who choose to and are able to bear children, but it can limit those who do not want children due to societal pressures through social media, for instance. Both Rihanna and Beyonce have already had wildly successful careers, but people still questioned the ultimate thing that would make their lives (or the lives of fans) complete: having a child. It’s almost as if society wants to see celebrities have children for their pleasure and for the aesthetic, but it isn’t that simple, nor should it be.
Simply using a “woman’s instinct” to claim that a woman is pregnant is close-minded and dangerous; this is an example of a reaction on social media to both Rihanna and Beyonce’s recent photos. Women can experience miscarriages and difficult pregnancies that affects their mind, body, and soul mentally and physically, which is why they often do not announce they’re expecting until months into their pregnancy.
Additionally, why is weight gain automatically correlated with pregnancy? Experiencing weight gain can come from numerous causes, and it does not have to be explained to anyone. It isn’t fair to expect any woman to look a certain way their entire life. Pictures do not give away all the answers. Celebrities are in the spotlight all the time, but society should be careful not to assume or ask if any woman is pregnant due to weight gain and deceiving photos that can be manipulated.
I appreciate all mothers; my own mother has balanced work life with raising my brother and I in ways I still don’t fully understand, but will forever be grateful for. But, it is important to recognize that those who are not mothers are visible in society, and are not mothers for personal reasons like focusing on their career.
Let’s celebrate mothers and non-mothers and not put down one over the other for the decisions they make. Recognize the beauty in both lives. Be careful when picking apart photos, or simply making assumptions about one’s body, because words can be harmful.