On Mimi, Beyoncé and Backlash Against the Sexual Agency of Black Mothers4/24/2014
I'm terrified of motherhood -- not simply because of the changes birthing a child will bring to my body and lifestyle, but because once...
I'm terrified of motherhood -- not simply because of the changes birthing a child will bring to my body and lifestyle, but because once a woman becomes a mother, she is expected to shrink into herself -- to forego the parts of her identity that anyone could ever construe as shameful.
When women have children, many believe that they should cease to be sexual beings. Generally, mothers are not supposed to enjoy sex. But every woman with children is not judged by the same metrics nor do they experience the same consequences.
Racialized patriarchy continues to set the terms of Black women's acceptable sexual expression. There exists little room for us to have a healthy, public relationship to our bodies and sexualities, but for Black mothers that space is nonexistent.
The shunning and shaming of Black women for retaining their sexual identities after giving birth underscores how expectations of white and black mothers differ. Neither chastity nor modesty is a requisite of "good" white motherhood, yet both Beyoncé and Mimi are chastised for being fit, sexual, and unashamed.
Beyoncé has been open about how hard she worked to get back into her pre-pregnancy shape after having Blue Ivy in 2012. In a mini-documentary released shortly after her self-titled album she explains, "I worked crazily to get my body back. I wanted to show my body."
With an incredible "snap-back," she resisted the ways pregnant bodies and newly postpartum bodies are consumed and critiqued. Clearly for B, "getting her body back" was not simply about looking good. She acted intentionally against the forces that presume Black women's bodies to be community property with an explicit claim to ownership.
Related: To Whom Does the Pregnant Body Belong?
White mothers who remain sexually desirable can become MILFs (an acronym for mother I'd like to f***). They are publicly fawned over and idolized. I simply don't ever recall the "what about the children?" reasoning invoked anytime Madonna, who is a mother of 4, has chosen to profit from her body or sexuality. If you are not a Woman of Color, to be a mother and to be sexy is an accomplishment. No one dares place your motherhood in question.
Faux concern about the potential ramifications of the sex tape on Mimi's daughter abound when MiMi has not endangered her child in any way. In reality, her daughter, Eva, will be victimized by the outdated mores that direct adults to call her mother a whore.
The label cannot be evaded even when the sex happens within the confines of a committed relationship. Beyonce describes erotic encounters with her husband while Mimi had consensual sex with her long-term boyfriend. They are "whores" not simply because of their actions, but because they refuse to submit to the policing to which they are subject.
When Black women experience shame, self-doubt, or question our erasure, we're labeled "insecure" by those who have no interest in helping us heal or affirming our voices. But when we are self assured and honest -- when we display agency over our bodies and enjoyment of our sexual experiences we are hos.
Black mothers, who are directed to keep everyone but themselves, simply cannot win.
Kimberly Foster is the founder and editor of For Harriet. Email or Follow @KimberlyNFoster