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Why Does This Beyonce Quote Rub Me the Wrong Way?*

I was reading the People magazine feed and clicked on a story about Beyonce.  As always, I openly admit that I read People magazine like the Bible.  How else am I supposed to keep my stranglehold on the zeitgeist?

Of course, I like a Beyonce song as much as the next girl, but the headline stated “Beyoncé Discusses Miscarriage & Slams Surrogacy Rumors” so my interest was doubly piqued.

What I thought the title meant was that a tabloid had started a rumour that she was once again expecting a child but this time it was via a surrogate. I didn’t know if she would say that the rumours weren’t true because she wasn’t ready yet to try again because Blue Ivy is only one (isn’t she one?) and they want more time alone with her. Or maybe they’re not ready to talk about their surrogacy journey but reporters are pushing her private life into the spotlight before she’s ready.

But that’s not what it was:

After going public with her pregnancy at the MTV Video Music Awards, she soon faces rumors that she had used a gestational surrogate.

“A stupid rumor, the most ridiculous rumor I’ve ever had about me,” she says. “To think that I would be that vain …”

She continues, saying that giving birth is “the most powerful thing you can ever do in your life.”

Am I thrown off by the word “vain?” I don’t normally equate gestational surrogacy with vanity.

Is it because she has such a narrow view of family building? It’s only giving birth that makes a person powerful? Birth is such a finite event. Does it really determine a person’s worth? I would argue that parenting the child for 18 years regardless of how that child came into your life trumps a single day of squeezing out another human being (and I think that even if I’m generous and throw in the whole nine months too).

And then, beyond that, there are 3000 non-child-related ways to change the world. Isn’t changing a community, changing a town, changing the world just as much if not more powerful than gestating a baby? If parenting alone were enough, we would never strive to involve ourselves in activities outside the hearth and home. But we do. We get involved in our communities and schools and religious organizations. And sometimes we even take it wide scale.

And all of that does not demean the work of parenting if you happen to be parenting, but it explains why we’re never satisfied to simply do this one task and feel as if it’s enough, as if it the most powerful thing and all else pales before it. For what it’s worth, I think all of it — the paid work and the unpaid work that we do — enhances parenting. It’s the salt of parenting, what brings out the flavour.

I’m not trying to be down on Beyonce.  She is certainly not the first person to speak about pregnancy and child birth in this way, and she certainly won’t be the last.  But they weren’t what I expected to read when I clicked on the title.

* and why does “rub me the wrong way” make it sound as if she’s pushing up against me on a crowded Metro train to cop a feel?


1 Elizabeth :: Bébé Suisse { 01.31.13 at 10:37 pm }

If I had to guess (based on my Us Weekly-derived expertise), she mentioned vanity because there were rumors that she used a surrogate for no other reason than to guard her figure. Without that context, though, this quote also rubs me the wrong way (and that saying also reminds me of some illicit action on a crowded metro).

2 Lollipop Goldstein { 01.31.13 at 10:42 pm }

I started to get that idea from the article — it was a little vague. I didn’t know people thought she had used a surrogate with Blue Ivy.

Maybe it rubs me wrong because it implies that women who do use a surrogate are somehow having a “less powerful” experience. That she follows this thought about surrogacy immediately with this statement that giving birth is the most powerful thing you can do, as if she wants to make clear that she’d never give another woman that power. It’s great for her that she can carry a child to term, but not everyone has that ability.

I sort of wish I hadn’t clicked because now this is going to be in my head during the Super Bowl halftime show.

3 FrozenOJ { 01.31.13 at 10:44 pm }

Not only does it disregard the continued parenting of the child, but also fails to account for the fathers of the world. I guess after men telling us they are the only ones allowed to have power for hundreds of years, it’s our turn to belittle them? I know too many people who had horrible birth mothers to think giving birth is somehow the end all be all of life. What you do after giving birth decides the impact your childbearing has on the world, not the birth itself.

4 Lollipop Goldstein { 01.31.13 at 10:47 pm }

That’s why men have no power, FrozenOJ. Oh… wait…

I guess I’m wary of any superlative of best or most since it usually inadvertently also discounts and belittles. Really good point, OJ.

5 A Passage to Baby { 01.31.13 at 10:54 pm }

Because she’s an idiot. There I said it. Or at least wrote it. Under my anonymous name. Suck it internet. Or at least Beyonce.

Seriously, she’s beautiful and everything, but does she even want to talk about vanity? Get a wrinkle already girlfriend!

6 It Is What It Is { 01.31.13 at 11:08 pm }

I didn’t read that story in People, but am looking forward with great interest to the book, Beyond Belief, by Jenna Miscavige Hill. I am fascinated by Scientology and her “escape” (that that word is used in conjunction with a ‘religion’ alone is fascinating) and take, especially as the niece of its leader, is too intriguing to pass up.

7 It Is What It Is { 01.31.13 at 11:29 pm }

As for Beyonce, it speaks to both her ignorance and privilege. As if, just because you have the means, you would chose surrogacy to maintain your body.

Had she said, “giving birth is the most powerful thing I can ever do with my life” then it would be her opinion about her life and not some generalization for all mothers.

8 Eliz { 02.01.13 at 12:00 am }

I bet the vanity bit was in regards to the suggestion that it would be to keep her figure, which I guess a lot of celebrities are accused of. But the “most powerful” comment is pretty degrading… I don’t know, I get the impression that most women spend a few years enamored with their own birth stories before they figure out that it’s just part of life. ( Sorry, did that sound bitter?)

9 St. Elsewhere { 02.01.13 at 1:41 am }

I sort of agree with Bebe Suisse. Lot of these celebrities who use surrogates are often accused of doing so because they were protecting their figures. Maybe she too meant it that way?

Otherwise, it’s just another pearl of ignorant sputter from a celebrity who should know what their words can do.

10 Arwen Rose { 02.01.13 at 5:25 am }

As a woman who can only have a child using a GC I was very pissed off with that comment as it just perpetuates the theory that people who have a surro, instead of having gone through hell and high water to build a family just are too vain or ‘can’t be bothered’ to carry themselves. Ugh.

11 JustHeather { 02.01.13 at 7:55 am }

My thoughts were along the same lines as Bebe Suisse, she just said it better. 😉

12 Chickenpig { 02.01.13 at 8:23 am }

I would not say that giving birth is the most powerful thing you could do to a servicewoman. Or a policewoman, or a firefighter, or…etc etc etc. I felt incredibly powerless lying on that table while a room full of people did things to me that I couldn’t see or barely feel while my husband could see everything. It may be one of the most important things I’ve done in my life, but not the most powerful.

13 a { 02.01.13 at 9:16 am }

I would equate surrogacy with vanity if the person were fully capable of carrying their own child. But I’m not sure that that has ever actually happened. However, in Paranoia-land, where we all apparently live now, the worst possible explanation and intention is clearly the correct one. Sigh.

It does sound…uninformed, I suppose would be the best description. Not a deliberate slight against people who use surrogates, but just the statement of someone who lives in the bubble where surrogacy is not a reality.

And if giving birth is the most powerful thing I can in my life, then I’ve peaked and I might as well retire now.

Rubbing things the wrong way should put you in the mind of petting an animal and making their fur stand up, but the feel-copping thing is much more entertaining. 🙂

14 Battynurse { 02.01.13 at 9:29 am }

I too thought that the vain comment was about using a surrogate to avoid losing here figure, body or shape. I read a book (fiction but I could totally see it happening) about famous women who were pretend to be pregnant while actually using a surrogate. Then after the baby was “born” mom was amazingly back to her pre baby perfect figure within a couple of weeks.

15 kateanon { 02.01.13 at 10:30 am }

I suppose I think people who don’t have infertility problems would think of vain reasons to use a surrogate, so I can see that.

I guess I get rubbed the wrong way by those kinds of comments that imply I’m wasting my life. If we’re all put on Earth to be parents and raise children and that’s the only real worthwhile type of cause, then what the hell are us childless people doing? It’s that attitude that makes me exasperated, and Beyonce isn’t the only one spouting that way.

16 Amy Elaine { 02.01.13 at 10:52 am }

I saw this same comment on my People iPhone app (yes, I am addicted to it) and was also offended. Thanks for saying something!

17 IrisD { 02.01.13 at 11:39 am }

I am dittoing kateanon. I will not have biological children… so according Beyonce, “I will never have the most powerful experience in life.” I might never be a mother of an adopted child, either, so as many would say, “I am missing out on the most important life experience.” I am sooooo glad I am learning to shut out other people’s opinions, or just viewing them, as opinions that have really only the bearing on me that I am willing to give them… which is none.

18 Lollipop Goldstein { 02.01.13 at 11:43 am }

It is a little bizarre to make an act which may be entirely outside a person’s control (and beyond that, something some teenagers can do quite by accident) the most powerful thing on earth. IrisD, if anyone said that aloud, I’d just smile at them and say, “that’s why MTV’s Teen Moms rock. It’s just like seeing the President on CSPAN, but they’re even more powerful.”

19 luna { 02.02.13 at 3:08 am }

didn’t see that but thought she described the sorrow of miscarriage well.

20 jjiraffe { 02.02.13 at 3:38 am }

There was a widely broadcast video of Beyonce sitting down in an interview chair while pregnant. I have seen it because I pay too much attention to celebrity gossip. She sat down and her “bump” deflated. It was very odd. There may very well be an explanation for it. But rumors swirled that she wasn’t really pregnant and that Beyonce used a surrogate to maintain her “figure.” I talked to a friend in Hollywood and she said no one uses a surrogate to maintain a figure: that’s a huge myth. But it’s a myth gossip columns love to recycle. So I’m pretty sure that was what she was referring to.

21 LN { 02.03.13 at 9:16 am }

Maybe she meant powerful, as in meaningful or important (a powerful book), rather than powerful, as in strong or competent (a powerful cleanser). In that sense, giving birth was a very powerful experience for me, and I’m not going to fault her for thinking its the most important thing she’s ever done. In fact, considering her professional accomplishments, this statement shows how much she wanted that experience. Before she gave birth, she was devastated by a miscarriage, after she gave birth, she was accused of using a surrogate to maintain her figure (even though she didn’t). It’s understandable she’s a bit testy.

22 Shelby { 02.04.13 at 11:53 am }

I also think that perhaps the ‘vanity’ comment was in reference to her using a surrogate strictly to maintain her figure, so in isolation, I’m not sure that one bothers me. But I agree, coupled with the following statement, the entire thing rubs me the wrong way, too. Yes, giving birth was the most powerful experience FOR YOU, Beyonce. Not the hypothetical ‘you’, pertaining to all other women, because we’re not all you. We don’t all get to fly on personal jets or eat caviar out of diamond encrusted bowls…or give birth.

But then maybe I’m being an overly sensitive infertile here. We all know that unless you’ve walked in an IFer’s shoes, you’re just not tuned in as finely to any reproduction outside yourself. Although this comment is not a very well-informed one (and totally speaks to her being wrapped up in her own personal experience), I might give her a little wiggle room on it. I think if I didn’t have that ability to forgive fertile ‘trespasses’ than I wouldn’t have the ability to have any fertile people in my life.

In addition, I really, really like how public she has been lately about her miscarriage. I think miscarriage is almost as taboo as infertility (well, almost) and in the same way I appreciate positive ‘spokespeople’ for infertility, I also appreciate the same regarding miscarriage. So, at the end of the day, it all balances itself out for me. I’m not really a Beyonce fan necessarily, but of all the stupid crap people can say about reproduction, this is far from the worst. But still, it definitely speaks volumes about her inability to see outside herself.

23 loribeth { 02.05.13 at 10:13 am }

I too think she was referring to “vain” as in “people think I used a surrogate so as not to ruin my figure.” It seems ridiculous, but then there are women who are supposedly “too posh to push” and want a C-section, right? :p

The whole thing about giving birth being this “powerful” experience, though, does rub me the wrong way. Maybe it’s true for some women — but I think this whole movement to view birth as an “experience” that a woman needs to tick off her life to-do list (and not just birth, but a “powerful” birth, presumably done in a certain way)(and weren’t we all supposed to be aiming for “orgasmic” births not so long ago??) — is missing the point. It’s not supposed to be about the process; it’s supposed to be about the result — hopefully, a healthy child.

That said — I can’t not like Beyonce (I’ve tried, lol). She seems fairly down to earth, and as others have said above, kudos to her for speaking publicly about her miscarriage.

24 Aerotropolitan Comitissa { 02.12.13 at 11:34 am }

Yeah, too many people say, “The most powerful experience you can have,” when what they mean is, “The most powerful experience I’ve ever had, and can imagine having.” How does one even rate the “power” of experiences?

The vanity argument needed more context in the article. A bit of a nod to the fact that most people don’t use surrogates merely to protect their figures would have been nice, but may be asking too much.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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