Society’s Concept of Womanhood and How We Contribute to it

For many of us, Beyonce represents the ideal woman; she’s strong, beautiful, and intelligent. She’s aware of the issues in the world and often uses her platform to advocate for those who are unable to advocate for themselves. She seems perfect. However, the article Beyonce: In Her Own Words (in which Beyonce is more candid than she has perhaps ever been) proves that even she is not exempt from the eyes of society.

 

She begins by talking about her body after pregnancy which is this article’s topic of focus. The bodies of pregnant women are reviled, especially pregnant women in media. Again and again, pregnant celebrities are criticized for motherhood, for how their bodies look during and after they bring a life into the world. The ugliness faced by Kim Kardashian comes to mind; the media frenzy around her weight gain was wild. Her body was called ugly while it went through the process of creating another and she felt she had to defend herself against the media moguls that told her there was only one way for her to be a woman.

 

Beyonce made a conscious effort to love her body after her second pregnancy, which is in direct contrast to how she reacted after her first pregnancy. She felt the need to shed the pounds after her first out of fear for how the world would perceive her, she felt she needed to retain how her womanhood had been defined in order to be regarded as valid among society. Her image is that of a strong and unperturbed woman, admitting openly that she felt pressured to fit the societal ideas of what it means to be a woman is contrary to her character but important for those pregnant women who feel like invalids after birth and often during pregnancy. There is strength in owning your fears and Beyonce embodies it.

 

In recent years, we as society have been in a struggle of redefining what it means to be a woman. The definition of womanhood and even motherhood has expanded and there has been opposition to it, just as there is opposition to every emerging idea. In particular, there is the question of femininity versus masculinity. In Today’s Masculinity Is Stifling, there is discussion of feminine characteristics (like wearing dresses) and, in particular, the idea that masculinity is superior. Perhaps the reason pregnant bodies are regarded with disgust in media is because pregnancy is something that is exclusive to those possessing a uterus, who often identify as women. The concept of the women being the “lesser” and the men being the “greater” creates an atmosphere in which we are unable to appreciate the qualities of femininity as powerful. It’s why it is such a scandal when little boys want to wear dresses and play with dolls but we rarely bat an eye when our daughters want to wear dungarees and play with cars. Ideas traditionally associated with masculinity are seen as the norm. Women like Beyonce and Serena Williams, who take ownership of their womanhood and their pregnant bodies, are attempting to redefine this, to make femininity not the lesser, but the default.

 

So in regards to what that means for society: it means that we must embrace change. The intentional use of “we” is to include myself and my peers in this conversation. Often, young people feel that we are outside this definition of society-- whether that be because we are historically the most liberal generation, or if it is because we feel we do not wish to be associated with the negativity that comes with the term. The truth of the matter is that society is the collective, it is all of our ideas and we set the status quo. If we wish for change, if we wish for acceptance for feminine ideals, of motherhood and of womanhood, we must advocate for that change. We must be critical of ourselves and include ourselves in the narrative to affect change.