Beyoncé addressing this post-baby body reality is an important moment.
I am not a rabid Beyoncé fan. I like Lemonade and a few more of her songs, but it would be a stretch to call me a “fan”. However, reading her statement in Vogue’s September issue, I felt a kinship with her that I had never felt before because she spoke honestly and openly about birth and the post-birth body. As a Black woman who is prized in part for her looks, I believe this was a radical act on her part.
Beyoncé took over the high-fashion magazine and, yes, we were given the beautiful photo shoot that we were expecting to see, having been photographed by Tyler Mitchell, the first ever Black photographer to shoot the cover for the 126 year-old magazine, but we were also gifted with the raw and open discussion of her pregnancy and postnatal period.
This wasn’t an exposé or an in-depth report — it feels intimate and candid. In her own words, the artist states, “To this day my arms, shoulders, breasts, and thighs are fuller. I have a little mommy pouch, and I’m in no rush to get rid of it. I think it’s real. Whenever I’m ready to get a six-pack, I will go into beast zone and work my ass off until I have it. But right now, my little FUPA and I feel like we are meant to be.”
It was Beyoncé saying, “This is what happened to me and this is what I did to come to terms with it.” It is part of a larger statement that she is making about her recent history that shares space with her career and performances. It is not a separate, specialty story, it is just part of her life. She described having a “FUPA.” This is a very normal post-baby body change, but I cannot recall ever hearing any reference to it in a mainstream fashion magazine. And when have we ever heard a celebrity speak about their belly fat unless it was about how they lost it?
The post-baby body is one of the most scrutinized bodies. No matter how you looked before, your body is almost always different afterwards. The culture we live in thinks nothing of commenting on and reminding people who have given birth that they need to look like they did not just have a baby, and this starts as soon as you’ve given birth.
From the perspective of all people who have given birth, who have lived with the changes that their bodies go through during and after that process, Beyoncé addressing this post-baby body reality is an important moment. A woman known for her perfection and beauty is standing up and telling us, “My body isn’t perfect by external standards, but it is perfect by the standards that matter most — mine.”
That’s a radical act, to acknowledge the process of birth, to accept that once the baby is no longer physically in your body it doesn’t mean that the process is over. That these changes will last and you don’t have to fight your own body to be what it was before you gave birth.
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Beyonce’s words are not just about this acceptance, but also about Black women and how our reproductive, natal, and postnatal care are treated by the medical establishment, as well as about the capitalist and North American idea that women should be able to push a baby out and get right back to work, whatever that work is.
These ideas don’t allow us the time to rest, to heal. Pieces like this statement from Beyoncé, that are so honest and open about this experience, give insight into how delicate our bodies are in the postpartum period and why it is so important to have that time to rest and recover.
In the U.S., maternal mortality is appalling and it is even worse for Black and Indigenous folx. Our medical concerns are often ignored due to bias and poverty keeps large swathes of our communities from accessing critical care. We are overburdened with the oppression of not just misogyny, but also racism. The reality is that too many of us die in the act of giving life.
For Beyoncé to say outright that her life was in danger and that the postpartum time for her was blur because she was just trying to live, that is in stark contrast to the general sunshine and roses celebrity postpartum stories. It is so raw and necessary to hear about it in relation to a Black birth experience, which is hardly spoken of at all.
All people benefit from this, of course, but statements like hers and that of Serena Williams go further in that they are also helping to break down the myth of the “strong Black woman” that contributes to the overwork and long-term term physical and mental suffering of Black non-men. To be able to hold space for rest and healing is a struggle for many of us, and it is compounded by the fact that we do not hear often that we deserve it.
Beyoncé spoke to that, however brief it was, and regardless of how you feel about her brand of feminism, her music, or her general life choices. For her to speak of her experience so candidly and openly in such a mainstream venue, especially following what Serena Williams offered about her own birth story, was a radical and empowering act.
This article was made possible thanks to our patron Suellen Lee, whose support on Patreon helps ensure that we can pay one writer every month!
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