With Beyoncé in particular, people didn’t believe that she was pregnant—[they believed] that this was just a media stunt meant to solidify her relationship with Jay Z in the public eye. This sense of the black female body as untrustworthy was a real dominant narrative of coverage of her pregnancy.
This time, I’m not seeing that [suspicion] at all. Maybe that’s because the announcement was made with a photo that is an undeniable baby belly. It’s there. I actually don’t know what the gestational age of the twins is, but it seems as though this is a later announcement than the Blue Ivy announcement. Women show their second pregnancies more quickly, and in a twin pregnancy certainly [they show more].
Kornhaber: What were some examples of other celebrity pregnancies you compared her to?
Cramer: There are all these different ways we can see celebrities. They can be “good girls” like Jennifer Garner, Julia Roberts. There are “bad girls” like Britney Spears, there are “bad girls redeemed” like Angelina Jolie. They can be this docile and worried-over woman like Katie Holmes or Nicole Kidman.
But women of color in particular—not just black women but also Latinas—are treated as much more sexualized objects than the white women. With Halle Berry, almost every headline about her was titled with “whoa,” like, “Whoa, sexy mama!” With J. Lo it was an obsessive emphasis on how quickly she returned to her pre-pregnancy bod, and of course the booty. So less an emphasis on the bump for these women and more on the bust line and the back side.
Kornhaber: What do you make of how Beyoncé announced her twins?
Cramer: There’s a huge market in the images of pregnancy and babies. Jay Z and Beyoncé have been amazingly good at stifling that market, or at least using it to their own benefit. They have privatized these images and made fans feel part of the family circle that gets to see them, rather than selling them—or worse, having the paparazzi grab them.
It disrupts this narrative we have of the media being in control of outing celebrities when they’re pregnant, and it really refocuses on her choice to say “yes, I am [pregnant].” Just like her choice to discuss her miscarriage in 2013. These are private moments that are selectively curated, much in the way that all social-media users do, but to maintain an image of control.
Kornhaber: In the photos she released, there are ones of her nude, which calls back to pictures like Demi Moore’s famous Vanity Fair cover. What is an image like that typically trying to do?
Cramer: It used to be an image like that was trying to shock and reclaim women’s sexuality in pregnancy. Now, I think there’s a different resonance to those photos, and it’s more of an assertion of comfort. As I’ve watched how people are responding to the announcement, I’m noticing much more glee and happiness than shock or disdain.