Beyoncé Wrote An Essay, But Is It Feminist?

rexusa_1858902tPhoto: Henry Lamb/Photowire/BEImages.
Beyoncé is undoubtedly the queen of many things. Among them, pop music, Instagram, and our hearts. It's no wonder that one of her latest tracks instructs us to "bow down." And, yesterday, when she penned an essay for The Shriver Report we got all kinds of excited. Bey's writing is part of the multi-author series on gender equality, "A Woman's Nation Pushes Back From The Brink." She joined fellow influencers Maria Shriver, Eva Longoria, LeBron James (yes, supportive men are allowed to be part of a woman's nation), and Anne-Marie Slaughter, among others. Admittedly, our expectations were high, but we found ourselves disappointed with the outcome. Though Bey is the ruler of many things, champion of feminism, she is perhaps not.
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The essay, entitled "Gender Equality Is A Myth!" focuses on important issues: the inequality facing women in the workplace and the drastic difference they see in compensation. Beyoncé cites statistics to bolster her claims, including the fact that the "average working woman earns only 77 percent of what the average working man makes." She explains: "Humanity requires both men and women, and we are equally important and need one another. So why are we viewed as less than equal? These old attitudes are drilled into us from the very beginning. We have to teach our boys the rules of equality and respect, so that as they grow up, gender equality becomes a natural way of life. And, we have to teach our girls that they can reach as high as humanly possible." She stresses the importance of raising children with the appropriate values and argues that's the key factor in perpetuating gender equality. And, she's totally right. "We need to stop buying into the myth about gender equality. It isn't a reality yet." That all sounds good, right?
The inherent problem with Beyoncé's essay is how lacking it is. Indeed, "essay" is a generous term, as it's an abrupt two-and-a-half paragraphs. This seems especially short when you consider other essays, like LeBron James', were longer. Does she really have nothing else to say on the subject? Bey often faces criticism for her seemingly superficial relationship with feminism. Does sampling a feminist speech make a song a girl-power anthem? Does telling us that women run the world show us that they do? Perhaps not when this essay is penned under B's married name and those very "feminist anthems" are performed under the "Mrs. Carter Tour" banner.
What's more, is that the icon seems to think gender equality is that something men must command. "Men have to demand that their wives, daughters, mothers, and sisters earn more — commensurate with their qualifications and not their gender. Equality will be achieved when men and women are granted equal pay and equal respect." To be sure, men play an integral role in the quest for gender equality, but using diction like "men have to demand" does little for enabling the power of a woman's voice.
Of course, contrary to popular belief, Queen B is not a perfect human. And, this isn't to say that B is antifeminist. Indeed, she's a power symbol for women everywhere. But, as Spiderman's Uncle Ben taught us, with great power comes great responsibility. And, with the kind of power Beyoncé wields, we expected something a little bit deeper from her foray into feminist discourse. Call us greedy, but we want more. And, if Beyoncé is to stand as the poster child for all things female empowerment, we need more from her.
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