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Beyoncé and Hillary: Gender equality is everyone’s issue

Beyoncé performs during last year's inauguration. (Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND, AFP/Getty Images) Beyoncé performs during last year’s inauguration. (Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND, AFP/Getty Images)

The reigning queen of darn near everything and the most prominent woman in politics are in sync about the need to empower women and girls. Beyoncé and Hillary Clinton have penned essays in The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink, a new study that looks at the way women across the country are working, living and in many ways struggling with this reality: The face of poverty and economic instability is increasingly female.

The study marks the latest effort by journalist Maria Shriver to start a conversation about women’s issues, and is a collaboration with the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank.  The overall takeaway, as outlined by The Post’s Dan Balz, is that America has dramatically changed and that many people think that governmental policies and business practices aren’t up to the task of addressing these changes.

The collection of essays, which also include contributions from scholars and activists, represents a mainstreaming of feminist ideas and a shift in public and political discourse.

Beyoncé, who has emerged as a kind of poster girl for modern feminism weighed in with this:

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.

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.

And Clinton, in many ways possibly previewing how she might run for the White House in 2016, frames her time at the State Department as another battle in her fight for equality. She too, says women’s issues—their status and their mobility–are everyone’s issues.

I’m amazed that too many otherwise-thoughtful people continue to see the fortunes of women and girls as somehow separate from society at large. They nod, they smile, and then they relegate these issues once again to the sidelines. I have seen it over and over again. I have been kidded about it, I have been ribbed, I have been challenged in boardrooms and official offices across the world. But fighting to give women and girls a fighting chance isn’t just a nice thing to do. It isn’t some luxury that we only get to when we have time on our hands. This is a core imperative for every human being in every society.

The report also includes essays from other famous people–hoops star LeBron James praising single mothers, actress and activist Eva Longoria on empowering Latinas.

Many of the takeaways from this report, which is part of a #WhatWomenNeed discussion on twitter, are familiar, but no less sobering:

–42 million women live in poverty.
–Women are two-thirds of the minimum wage work force.
–Black women earn 64 cents and Latinas 55 cents to every dollar that white men earn.

This much is clear: We are in a moment when the issue of income equality and social mobility is upper most in the minds of members of both parties–Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Paul Ryan were key note speakers at a Brookings conference on Monday that focused on this topic.

In part, this has to do with the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “war on poverty” speech, but it is also clear that politically, focusing on income and poverty, for Republicans especially, is a way to demonstrate empathy and to ultimately try to close the gender gap, which dogged the GOP at the polls in 2012.

It’s likely that other politicians–and pop stars–will weigh in on this issue that has become the topic du jour.

Nia-Malika Henderson is a political reporter for The Fix.

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