Following on from my previous post ‘ Women must be slim?’ discussing the social construction of the body and the implications it has for women’s psychological health, I want to draw on Johnson’s (2010) recent work in order to understand how Alicia Keys (and other women) might be experiencing pregnancy.
Johnson’s (2010) discourse analysis explored how women take up, negotiate and rework dominant discursive constructions of the pregnant body. The key ways in which the women in the study spoke about their bodies related to pregnancy as a transgression of Western cultural ideals of feminine beauty (e.g. women must be slim to be attractive). This was mainly because the pregnant body often has a similar shape to the fat body. This mirrors Dogruyol’s (2010) (see my previous post) experiences of her body as being fat and less attractive. Unlike Dogruyol’s experiences, Johnson also found that pregnancy allowed these women to relax the usual standards of feminine beauty and freed them to some extent from the objectifying sexualized male gaze by making them asexual. However the women interviewed did suggest that pregnancy enhanced their beauty and sexuality in profiting from bigger and fuller breasts.
In terms of experiencing their bodies as dis/connection from self and others Johnson (2010) found that her interviewees felt disconnected from their bodies in the sense that their pregnant body was experienced as ‘weird’ (Johnson, 2010: 252), yet at the same time they felt connected to their baby and a ‘delight with the merging of two bodies’ (ibid., 252).
In drawing on the work of Johnson (2010) and Bordo (1993), I hope to have provided a brief glimpse of how Alicia Keys may be experiencing her pregnant body and how her body relates to ideals of Western feminine beauty.