Would Beyoncé be interesting to hang out with in person? Is she really, truly musically talented? Does she deserve to be called a feminist? Is she actively scheming to heal deep-seated African-American cultural wounds by letting her 2-year-old’s hair look like a 2-year-old’s hair?
Welcome to the list of highly subjective and largely unanswerable questions about the chart-topping pop star.
Prominent among the debates that have continued to percolate, long after Wendy Williams’ declaration that the singer “sounds like she has a fifth-grade education”: Is Beyoncé smart?
Frustratingly, we rarely define terms when we have these discussions. Are we evaluating based on a mastery of the concepts offered by a formal education? Quick-witted verbal communication? Business savvy? Creativity? Wise management of a public image?
She joined Hillary Clinton, Jada Pinkett Smith and other high-profile women to write on behalf of the Shriver Report’s recent findings—including the fact that 42 million women in the U.S. are either living in poverty or are on the brink of living in poverty.
“Today, women make up half of the U.S. workforce, but the average working woman earns only 77 percent of what the average working man makes,” Beyoncé said in a piece that also calls for teaching boys about equality and respect in order to advance equal pay and respect for women.
Here’s where it gets good, though. Readers who click the link to the superstar’s “feminist essay” will be led to continue reading “A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink,” which contains the Shriver Report’s analysis of the rates of financial insecurity among American women, its investigation of the impact on the nation’s economic future and proposals for solutions.
I’m not too concerned about whether Beyoncé’s statement was transcribed directly from the singer’s own notebook, heavily inspired by feminist blogs or carefully finessed by the hand of an editor. It’s accurate. It’s provocative. It’s clear. You can’t really argue with the content. And despite what many who are entrenched in academia or progressive politics might think—that the content of her piece isn’t anything new—its facts and concepts aren’t likely to be common knowledge to many of the fans and critics who will stumble upon the piece and the accompanying report today.
In other words, while another fruitless debate is reignited about Beyoncé’s worth as a human being, her essay has expertly done its job: placing a spotlight on the endlessly more significant issues related to the lives of women who don’t drop surprise albums and don’t make headlines.
That’s what I call smart.
Jenée Desmond-Harris is The Root’s senior staff writer. Follow her on Twitter.