[Heteronormative] Couple Goals in a Post-Feminist Society
by Caitlin Bell
Photograph courtesy of Kim Kardashian
With social media and the 24-hour news cycle, it is virtually impossible to escape or avoid celebrity media. The lives and choices of these famous people are displayed to the willing and eager public through literally every outlet of media. Celebrities dominate magazines, television, reality television, radio, film, etc. Even if you aren’t seeking out celebrity news, you probably know about at least a few celebrity couples and their families, and about their lives or careers.
Many people, especially young women, look to these celebrity figures as a source of motivation, whether that motivation comes in terms of fashion, fitness, career, or relationships. For many, celebrities, generally, are supposed to be the model of how to live a good, successful, and prosperous life. We know celebrities’ ideal bodies to be “body goals”, their mansions to be “house goals”, the cars they drive to be “car goals”, the lavish vacations they take and publicize on social media to be “vacation goals”, and most importantly and probably most prominently in the current post-feminist surge, the people they date and marry (usually other celebrities) are known to be “couple goals”.
I’m positive that every single person with a Twitter or Instagram account has seen someone talk about couple goals in relation to a celebrity couple, or any sort of influential couple with a social following. Pictures of celebrity relationships flood both social and mainstream media. One of the most-liked Instagram photos of all time is a picture of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian at their wedding, and if you took the time to scroll through the comments, many would read “goals”.
It also seems as if the standards for what makes a goal-worthy relationship has drastically decreased. A person could post a screenshot of a text conversation and say something like “when he texts you back” followed by a bunch of unnecessary greater than signs. Conversation is now a goal. Or some male celebrity could be photographed by paparazzi carrying his girlfriend’s heels as she walked barefoot because her feet were probably sore. The internet would flood with women sharing the picture saying things like “I need a man like this.”
Society puts pressure on people to be happy and to be in a relationship. Anything other than that might not be considered normal. If a woman decided not to marry or to have children, they might be questioned by those around them. For social reasons, there is a compulsory instinct that drives people to want to be in a relationship, and the glamorization of celebrities and celebrity couples pushes the ideal.
People just love seeing relationships, especially heteronormative ones, be successful, and happy and long-lasting. A happy marriage means a happy life, supposedly. However, when there’s a celebrity split, it will dominate the news for weeks, sometimes even months on end. Tabloids will comment on every single aspect of what they think is going on and publish it.
Think about when Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie split up. Everyone was heartbroken. I remember seeing social media flood with comments like “love isn’t real.” What will Brad and Angelina do without each other? How will they survive? Are they ever going to be happy? And, also, how does Jennifer Aniston feel about this since, you know, she dated Brad Pitt in like 2005, or something? But no one really cares about how Brad feels, but successful actress, filmmaker, and humanitarian Angelina Jolie must be broken. The now lone-female must be lost.
Another example of people loving traditional relationships and nuclear families: flash back to last year’s Grammy Awards. One of the most celebrated attendees was Beyoncé. Before the awards, Beyoncé took to social media to announce that her and her husband Jay-Z were expecting twins. Right after this announcement the internet downright exploded with happiness and joy for Beyoncé and her family.
But when Grammy time came around, this was the main point of all conversation. What would Bey be wearing? Will she be showing? How will she perform while pregnant? There was seemingly little conversation regarding her nine nominations for her stellar, record-breaking album, Lemonade. That is until she lost the coveted Album of the Year award to Adele, then people started to get heated and passionate about her art and her music and left her pregnancy out of the dialogue.
As we begin to transition from a third-wave of feminism into a fourth-wave, we begin to see many postfeminist ideals coming into play. Third-wave feminism recognizes that women have a choice. They can get married or they don’t have to get married, it is up to the woman. But what post-feminism argues is that women are making a choice, but are resorting to make a more “traditional” choice of married with kids.
The glamorization of relationships and motherhood by mainstream and celebrity media reinforces the idea that a woman will be happiest when she is in a stable relationship and when she is a mother. So, women have a choice on what they want to do with their lives, but they should do x, y, and z to be the “most fulfilled”.