As Beyoncé writes that "gender equality is a myth", the case for feminism has been reopened in national media. The open letter, part of Maria Shriver's 'The Shriver Report: A Women's Nation Pushes Back from the Brink', discusses the problem of limited opportunities for women in America, and what the Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter and actress thinks needs to be done.
Beyoncé notes that although women make up more than half of the population of America, and half of the workforce, they earn on average just 77% of what the average working man receives. She continues,
"We need to stop buying into the myth about gender equality. It isn't a reality yet."
The powerful letter was a part of a collection gathered together by Shriver for her report, which also includes a letter from Carol Gilligan, a professor at New York University, whose work entitled 'In a Different Voice' was called "the little book that started a revolution". Named by Time magazine as one of the 25 most influential Americans, she writes in her most recent book 'Joining Resistance' that "the time to act is now".
At the current time, the United States is the only developed nation that does not require employers to provide paid maternity leave for women, which seems remarkable for such an advanced country. Maria Shriver writes that in America, it is not just women who will benefit from rewriting and renewing laws, business practices, workplaces, and ultimately the culture: "Children will. Men will. We all will", she writes.
In November 2012, Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, wrote a powerful piece for The Independent, responding to the claim that "women are equal now (more or less)". She revealed just a selection of the shocking statistics that reveal that women in all countries, professions and situations are far from equal. She notes that in a 2009 Home Office survey, 36% of people polled said a woman deserved to be held fully or partially responsible is she was sexually assaulted or raped whilst she was drunk. Bates ends the article, "But don't worry, pipe down, hush up, get a grip, calm down dear. Because women are equal now (more or less)." Her message may be sarcastic but it is still strong: women are far from gender equality. It is, as Beyoncé wrote, a myth.
However, although work such as the Everyday Sexism Project is making a huge difference, the question remains as to whether feminism will really change the world unless men support it just as much as women. Beyoncé writes in her letter that "unless women and men both say (gender inequality) is unacceptable, things will not change", as it is necessary for men to demand that their wives, mothers, sisters and daughters achieve full gender equality.
As I write this, Russell Brand has just tweeted a picture of himself with a 'No More Page Three' T-shirt: men are starting, slowly, to take note of the problem of gender inequality, and possibly a sexism-free future isn't completely fantastical. Beyoncé recommends that boys are taught from a young age to respect women and treat them as equals, so that when they grow up, gender equality is "a natural way of life". All we can do is hope that with powerful men, and women, on the case for equality, we can all move towards a better future in 2014.