Since the release of Beyoncé’s only photo of her children, one she released on her Instagram account and didn’t sell to People like a myriad of stars before her, white women across the Twittersphere have made wild claims about the mother of three. Danielle Ryan, a journalist with a slew of credits, asserted “Beyoncé is literally a female version of Kanye West. Full blown narcissist. I can't understand the insane reverence around her.” Twitter verified white supremacy account, Wife With A Purpose tweeted a photo of the Madonna & Child next to a photo of Beyoncé with the caption “Tubillardine Whiskey (1952) vs Kool-Aid” . These women (tbh the gender of the latter is suspect) and their tweets are easy to ignore as twitter fodder, coded racist dog whistles written for attention at a time when it was wholly fixed on a black woman and the bold, beautiful display of her motherhood. What I will not ignore is Stylist Magazine’s institutionalisation of the coded language surrounding Beyoncé’s photo. The women behind the popular magazine thought it wise to commission one Lucy Paget to write an ill-conceived, poorly executed ‘think’ piece entitled “The problem with Beyonce’s impossibly perfect baby announcement.” “Oh Bey. We expected nothing less, but we deserved so much more…” starts the article.
First of all, throughout the piece Lucy speaks directly to Beyoncé Giselle an entire Knowles-Carter, the twenty time Grammy award winner with an unjustified level of familiarity; “you have proudly described yourself as a feminist” (she is), “you have a different life to almost all of us” (correct), “you may well have a completely flat stomach already” (mind your business). More important than this however is the desperation to use what is supposed to be a joyous occasion as an excuse to undermine Beyoncé’s feminism because her stomach is “unblemished and seemingly unaffected by the physiological effects of carrying two babies for nine months.” Condescendingly, Lucy lambasts Beyoncé, schooling her on the traumas of pregnancy before the final bang of her gavel in this invented case where she alone is judge, jury and executioner “you have damaged us all."
I’ve written about why it is problematic for white women to try to educate this black woman who suffered four miscarriages on the sanctity of pregnancy before so I’m not here to drag premier league dry head Lucy but to hold Stylist Magazine to account for pursuing the publication of an article void of thoughtfulness and respect that feeds into an irritational need of white women journalists to diminish and criticise Beyoncè and how she displays both her pregnant and post pregnancy body. The unmitigated gall of a magazine who see fit to give space to a freelancer who dares fix her fingers to type “this image is not of a woman celebrating the birth of two new lives” baffles me. Black women have long shouldered the burden of being ground zero for the pain of the human female body and the accusation “you have once again put the spotlight firmly on the image of a perfect appearance above all else” never takes into consideration Beyoncé might not have the stretch marks and cellulite Lucy requires of women not to dehumanise them. Stylist Magazine has made strides in trying to tackle the inequality in its pages. Most recently Reni Eddo-Lodge’s cover on the magazine and accompanying article reduced me to tears - she looks like me, I’ve met her, I wanna be like her someday. Stylist Magazine isn’t a struggling rag looking for attention, they genuinely don’t need it; they distribute half a million copies a week on the streets of the most metropolitan cities in Britain; London, Brighton, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Leeds and Birmingham. The magazine claims readers have been “appreciative of Stylist's smart, fresh content that's relevant to them and their lives.” There is nothing smart or fresh about Lucy’s article. I am unappreciative. It is as stale and distasteful as Sarah Vine’s “Why isn’t there any cellulite on her thighs?”
I would be less likely to write this article if this was something Stylist did for all celebrity mothers; roll out some bitter Lucy to invalidate their motherhood but it’s not and I’m so disappointed. Stylist Magazine claims to be for women, but I question which women find this level of negativity affirming and encouraging? There was another way to discuss the post pregnancy pressures on women and this was not it. Catherine Pearson’s 9 Things No One Tells You About Post-Pregnancy Bodies is one way the magazine could have gone on this topic instead of targeting this black mother for a take-down that is unwarranted. For Romper, Andrea Frazer takes a calm, respectful and tempered approach explaining it is those obsessed with how Beyoncé looks postpartum, not Beyoncé herself who “are the ones perpetuating the idea that all women should look like Beyoncé after giving birth….” Lucy thought with one picture she had the power to read Beyoncé’s mind and translate her intentions and it is in the commissioning and publishing of this article that roundly condemns Beyoncé from all angles based on an Instagram post that Stylist Magazine failed. I implore Stylist Magazine to do better.
Look, I go as hard for Beyoncé as I do the other black women I admire. I wonder if Stylist Magazine would so freely fail to scrutinise the quality of articles surrounding a much celebrated, international figure like Beyoncé, if I were the subject, how would I be treated? When white women so vocally share such negative thoughts that deny Beyoncé her humanity and agency, I selfishly question what thoughts they might have about me? How Stylist treats Beyoncé is a reflection on how it might one day treat other black mothers.
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