Beyonce, Blue Ivy, and the Public Performance of Motherhood

A snapshot of one day never tells a life’s story.

Beyoncé is giving the performance of a lifetime, and for once, it’s not for us. This past week, Bey came under fire for the appearance of her daughter Blue Ivy’s hair. It’s not the first time. And this isn’t the first time I’ve written about Bey, Blue and hair, either. What’s new? This petition imploring the Carters to comb Blue Ivy’s hair.

When I see people do stupid things, I slow blink at them. Slowly. And then I go on about my business. That’s essentially what I did when I read about the plea to “comb that baby’s hair.”

But in thinking about the incredibly public role Beyoncé is playing as a mother, I was reminded of a truism about motherhood:

Motherhood, and especially Black motherhood, is very much about performance. 

What do I mean? Motherhood is a highly scrutinized position that will have non-mothers and mothers alike offering opinions on how best to raise your child. Not only that, but your body and your child are visually inspected to ensure that you are being a “good” mother according to normative standards. A child with a crusty nose in public inspires you to wonder where a parent is to wipe the mess up. Ashy children are the progeny of wretches. A toddler with mismatched clothing draws clucking hens.

Before they can even talk, our children’s appearances speak volumes about who we are as parents. So mothers dab stale spit onto thumbs and rub dried food off chubby cheeks before heading into the grocery store. And the babies squirm. They don’t care about the orange sweet potato lingering from lunch! They are full and happy; we worry only about the adults with baleful stares thinking, “Why’d she let her kids out of the house looking like that?

So we perform motherhood publicly, over and over again. 

Beyoncé performs the life of a pop star flawlessly but her performance of motherhood diverges from the script she has written for herself.

Read the rest at Truly!

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