On Instagram, in the early hours of Friday morning, Beyoncé posted a picture with her newborn twins that was breathtaking. According to some people on Twitter, however, Beyoncé's baby photo shoots are attention-seeking nonsense and nothing else. These criticisms don't just lack any weight; they're also reductive and insulting. Not just to Beyoncé as a woman, proud mother, and candid artist, but to women and proud mothers everywhere, who should feel entitled to celebrate the achievement of motherhood however they damn well please.
In response to Beyoncé's mutli-layered and thoughtful portrait, one user accused the 20-time Grammy Award winner of having a "lust for media attention," while another called her "attention starved." Meanwhile, yet another Twitter user accused Bey of needing "too much attention," and posed the question, "Can't she just take a picture of her twins [and] NOT be in the picture?" There's plenty more of the same criticism floating around social media, but you should probably spare yourself.
Showing a serene-looking Beyoncé cradling Sir and Rumi Carter in front of a lavish backdrop bursting with flowers, the picture is framed by a haze of blue sky and sea that's perfectly coordinated with the color of her endless open veil. On the surface, it shows the unadulterated joy of motherhood, while also simultaneously acting as a celebration of nature, femininity, and life itself. But it also echoes a painting like Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus," in which the goddess is portrayed as emerging from the sea, fully grown. Well, Beyoncé has emerged with her twins, and she is glowing.
The first and most obvious failings of such criticisms is that Beyoncé is a woman who is not starved for any attention. This is the same woman who once caused a massive media sensation by buying McDonald's for her tour crew, for goodness' sake. Her impeccable baby photo shoots, then, are not for enjoying some base gratification or self-publicity, because a woman like Beyoncé doesn't need either. Instead, these photo shoots are powerful statements of agency that also beautifully explore the complexities of female identity.
Within these images, Beyoncé is commanding her own narrative, both as a pregnant woman and a mother. She isn't allowing her body, or her children, to be exploited by outsiders or misrepresented. And she isn't giving ownership of her family story to whatever tabloid wants to scoop an exclusive. She's completely in charge, and these images act as a literal embodiment of that message in all their poetic, unapologetic candor.
They're also incredibly on-brand for Beyoncé, which is perhaps one of the most perplexing aspects of the criticism that tries to write off the superstar's baby photo shoots as attention-seeking. These portraits are in-line with Bey's work as a compelling, adventurous, and intelligent artist. Regardless of whether you're a fan of her music, there's no denying that her output is ahead of the curve for how she controls every facet of it. Not just with the music's content, but also with how it's released, alongside how the public persona of herself and her family is expressed to the world.
With Lemonade, Beyoncé's groundbreaking visual-album, the artist rewrote what an album could be and how it could be released. Beyoncé premiered Lemonade as a special event on HBO, while also releasing it exclusively on Tidal, the streaming service she owns with husband JAY-Z. By doing so, the singer maintained full control over how the album could be consumed by fans and gave them not just one music video, but an entire movie. It was a revelation.
It's easy to see parallels between how the singer releases her music and how she makes personal moments public: Beyoncé bypasses mainstream conventions in order to maintain authorship over everything she does. And that was also clear within the context of Lemonade, too. Through lyrics, visuals, and poetic symbolism, Lemonade addressed myriad ideas that challenged mainstream discourse. Unapologetic and forthright, Lemonade tackled complex and personal topics, such as African-American identity and history, systemic racism, and the impact of JAY-Z's alleged infidelity on her sense of self. It was a confessional masterwork, sure, but it was grounded within some serious social and political commentary that is rarely heard from pop artists, never mind taken seriously.
The significance of Beyoncé's ability to control the narrative of her public identity and music was perhaps best expressed by her sister Solange for Interview magazine. Interviewed by Bey about her album, A Seat at the Table, Solange talked about the importance of taking credit for your achievements as a woman and said:
One thing that I constantly have to fight against is not feeling arrogant when I say I wrote every lyric on this album. ... I remember Björk saying that she felt like, no matter what stage in her career, if a man is credited on something that she's done, he's going to get the credit for it. And, unfortunately, that still rings true. It's something I've learned so much about from you, getting to be in control of your own narrative.
Unbelievably, women still face difficulty in feeling entitled to inhabit their own spaces, and to proudly and publicly celebrate their achievements without being called out in some way. And these latest criticisms regarding Beyoncé's baby photo shoots do exactly that — they undermine the profound and intimate layers these images work upon by criticizing the enthusiastic response to them, and thus failing to recognize everything else they're delivering.
The main point is that these photos have not been taken for the sole purpose of gaining attention. Instead, their artistic merit works as a celebrations of all women and of all mothers, not just Beyoncé. With these striking photos, the singer has lifted the veil of her pregnancy, and she's now standing proud as she enters this next life chapter. She's controlling her narrative, and she likely doesn't give a damn about what you think.