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Beyonce: Gender equality is a myth

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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Beyonce addresses gender inequality in an essay on Maria Shriver's website
  • The singer points out the gap in average income between men and women
  • The topic is something she also touches on frequently in her music
  • Beyoncé: We need to stop buying into the myth about gender equality

By Breeanna Hare

When Beyonce tells people to "bow down," they listen.

Now the star is hoping to bring the same show-stopping power to the issue of gender inequality with an essay on Maria Shriver's website, The Shriver Report.

In "The Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Pushes Back from the Brink," the 32-year-old pop star -- writing under her full name, Beyonce Knowles-Carter -- proclaims that "gender equality is a myth!"

The "average working woman earns only 77 percent of what the average working man makes. But unless women and men both say this is unacceptable, things will not change."

Humanity, she continues, "requires both men and women, and we are equally important and need one another. ... 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."

Her words are likely familiar to those who know her music, which references the trials of womanhood and female empowerment going all the way back to her work with Destiny's Child.

That's not to imply that Beyonce's pop music message doesn't have its conflicts. In the 1999 Destiny's Child song, "Bills, Bills, Bills," the lyrics scold a lover who's gone from footing the bill to asking for money. "Silly me, why haven't I found another," the song continues. "Can you pay my bills? ... If you did then maybe we could chill."

On the other hand, there are Destiny's Child anthems like "Independent Women," Parts I and II, with lyrics such as "I buy my own diamonds and I buy my own rings. ... Try to control me, boy you get dismissed," which became a nightclub rallying cry.

Given her prominence and success, her statements on womanhood and feminism are often a source of public debate.

Last April, Beyonce told British Vogue that she hesitated to call herself a feminist. (Katy Perry similarly ducked the designation while accepting 2012's Billboard Woman of the Year award, during which she said she's "not a feminist," but does "believe in the strength of women.")

The word feminist "can be very extreme," she told Vogue. "But I guess I am a modern-day feminist. I do believe in equality. Why do you have to choose what type of woman you are? Why do you have to label yourself anything? I'm just a woman and I love being a woman."

A woman, for the record, who celebrates the power of women -- that much is clear from her two most recent albums alone. On her 2011 disc "4" there was the self-assured "Who Run the World (Girls)?," in which she praises the power of women: "My persuasion/can build a nation .... (We're) smart enough to make these millions/strong enough to bear the children/then get back to business."

And her chart-topping surprise 2013 release, the self-titled "Beyonce," has been endlessly debated as a symbol of her feminist perspective -- or lack thereof.

In the song "***Flawless" from that album Beyonce samples words from celebrated writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's April 2013 TED Talk "We Should All Be Feminists."

"Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage," Adichie says in the sample. "Marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support, but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage, and we don't teach boys the same?"

In her piece for The Shriver Report, Beyonce echoes Adichie's perspective, saying "these old attitudes are drilled into us from the very beginning. ... 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."

The singer's contribution is one of many pieces that fill Shriver's report, which explores the rates of financial insecurity among American women, examines its impact, and offers solutions for change.

Along with Beyonce, Shriver's report pulled in actress Eva Longoria, who wrote a piece entitled "Empowering Latinas," and basketball star LeBron James, who penned an appreciation of the nation's working mothers.

The report, which is in partnership with the Center for American Progress, can be downloaded for free here.

 

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