WASHINGTON, September 1, 2011— R&B Pop Superstar Beyonce Knowles’ recently announced pregnancy has ignited lots of interest but also social debate about controversial issues like the high rate of out-of-wedlock births in urban cities.
Last Sunday, during the walk along the “red carpet” that preluded the MTV’s Video Music Award, Beyonce posed cupping her belly signifying to cameras that she was pregnant with her and husband, rapper/mogul Sean “Jay-Z” Carter’s first child. She then confirmed the news to querying paparazzi and later that evening capped off a performance of her latest single on stage by opening her sequined jacket and rubbing her belly signaling to the millions of watching fans that she was indeed with child. The news sent a frenzy over the Internet, breaking the social media site Twitter’s record for the most tweets per second. A spokeperson for the site said users sent 8,868 tweets per second when the news broke.
Since the announcement, many bloggers, gossip and entertainment sites and mainstream press have been cranking out trending stories, hypothesizing over what the pregnancy will mean for her future film career (actor/director Clint Eastwood had to delay filming a remake of “A Star is Born” that was to feature Beyonce as the lead actress), the maternity fashion industry, and how it stacks up against other famous mega couple’s pregnancies.
Several sites have churned out pieces questioning what type of social or psychological impact the pregnancy would have on her fans. So much hubbaloo about one woman’s pregnancy. It says much about the recent obsession with celebrity bump watch. The term was coined recently, but started 20 years ago when Demi Moore posed nude during her third trimester of her pregnancy on the August 1991 cover of Vanity Fair magazine. It describes the now near fanatical obsession of fans to monitor the growing belly of a pregnant celebrity until she delivers.
Many have speculated for years when Beyonce, who got married on April 4, 2008, would eventually get pregnant. Her pregnancy was highly anticipated, and therefore the non-stop coverage this week is not unexpected.
One commentator made a tenuous link in a story querying whether Beyonce’s young fans would purposely attempt to get pregnant in order to get to experience pregnancy at the same time as their idol.
Monday, Justin Combs, the son of rapper/mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs, caused a stir when he made a social commentary via twitter about single mothers, tweeting, “Beyonce dated, married, THEN got pregnant…young ladies take note.” It was a sentiment repeated by many since the announcement.
Prominent marriage advocates like blogger Christelyn Karazin of the “No Wedding No Womb” initiative that encourages in-wedlock births in the black community also addressed Justin Combs’ tweet in a post on the Family Scholars website, Can Beyonce and Jay-Z make marriage cool?.
“To have a prominent young person–a member of hip hop royalty by birth–be nervy enough to distribute this message to over 200,000 followers is earth shaking,” Karazin wrote. “Especially when this kid is the son of a man with multiple baby mommas. Perhaps there’s hope after all.”
Several women’s groups and other sites and authors took offense to these types of statements because they claimed they denigrate single women and products of single parentage.
The Atlanta Post’s article “How Beyonce’s Pregnancy is being used to look down upon single mothers” says the ultimate impact of people praising Beyonce for doing it the “right” way by getting married before getting pregnant is to shame and stigmatize single mothers.
Lamar Tyler of Tyler Media which publishes the website BlackMarriedWithKids.com responded to the criticism, “We’re living in a time when every effort to celebrate the institution of marriage is looked upon as a knock against single parents and that is a problem.”
Perhaps, those taking offense maybe need to step back to get a sense of the bigger picture. Currently, the United States teen pregnancy rate is unacceptable. A 2001 Guttmacher Institute survey revealed that among five developed nations, the United States had the highest rate of teenage pregnancy.
And while unintended pregnancies happen, in many states far too many young women engage in reckless sexual behavior and wind up pregnant. Often times, young girls in this category are ill-prepared, without education and lack the proper foundation, support and financial resources to raise their children. Some manage to do okay, but many more suffer through it and can only get by on government support. The problem is exacerbated among the poor, unfortunately, the group least capable of financially supporting additional unintended pregnancies. A more recent Guttmacher Institute report, released this August, revealed that unintended pregnancy among the poor is on a rise. The research suggests that women who have better access to reproductive health services, have achieved their educational goals or are in relationships that support a desired pregnancy are more likely than other women to achieve planned pregnancies and avoid unintended ones.
Education and counseling are part of the equation.
But if it is possible for a pop star pregnancy to influence behavior, then so be it. Also, it can be as simple as signaling to those girls who may never have witnessed healthy workable marriages in their lives, but who idolize Beyonce, that there is an alternative and to think twice before acting irresponsibly and having unprotected sex.
A proper lens to view the message about “doing it right” is to think of the target of the message. There are women who choose to have a baby without a committed partner or out-of-wedlock because they can’t find a suitable mate but still want the joys of raising a child or simply because they prefer to raise a child on their own. And of course, there are mothers forced to raise their children alone when a spouse passes away or they get divorced or separated, and there are older mothers who may have had an unintended pregnancy before when they were younger but eventually settled down, got married and are raising additional children in blended families. The odds are though that people in this group are most likely older, more mature, more educated and/or more skilled and may have more resources and tools to properly raise their children.
It’s about those very young women and ill-prepared teens.
“If Beyonce can make just one young girl want to wait for marriage before having her child then that is an important impact,” Tyler said. “Some of our young people don’t even realize that marriage is a realistic option for them.”
Sometimes, some people got to realize that every social message is not always about them.
Read more Politics of Raising Children in The Communities at the Washington Times. Follow Jeneba Ghatt at @JenebaSpeaks. Her work can also be read at Jeneba Speaksand Politic365. She also co-hosts a Blog Talk Radio show called Right of Black which tackles current events and politics from a perspective not often seen in the mainstream media.
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