Last week Beyoncé posted a picture of a young man wrapped in the American flag on Instagram. The names of Black men who died due to police brutality were written in the white stripes. In light of the Baltimore uprising and the recent death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, Beyoncé captioned her photo, “People are hurting. Join us in supporting the NAACP to help in the cleanup efforts and to provide housing, food and supplies to those affected by the unrest in Baltimore.”
Within moments, the Beyhive and the singer’s detractors began to sound off in the post’s comment section. While some praised Beyoncé for her charitable efforts with the NAACP, others felt underwhelmed. The latter bunch claimed Beyoncé only posted the image for publicity while others jokingly commented, “Y’all know Beyoncé didn’t write this caption!” Yes, there are a number of celebrities who have social media managers, however, on numerous occasions I’ve heard people claim Beyoncé can’t write a complete sentence, much less touching photo captions, let alone song lyrics. All of this leads me to ask: Why do people think Beyoncé is dumb?
Whether it be the nicest or rudest family members, co-workers or even strangers, there is a large group of people who firmly believe Beyoncé is intellectually deficient. In order to gain more clarity on this First Degree offense for the Beyhive, I asked professionals who do not work in the media industry why one of the biggest marketing geniuses of all time is often looked at as a “simpleton.”
Since Beyoncé did not attend college, professionals in the financial and advertising industries believe she lacks education in gender studies, knowledge necessary in order to speak about and promote feminism. Feminism is something the singer speaks on often. Professionals in the education field agreed, with some saying they were perturbed to hear and see Beyoncé perform her hit 2013 song Drunk In Love with her husband, Jay Z, while he rapped the lyrics: “I’m like Ike Turner, turn up, baby, no, I don’t play/ “Now eat the cake, Anna Mae,” said, “Eat the cake, Anna Mae!”
Malissa Rivera, a community director at University of Maryland, Baltimore County noted:
The abuse Tina Turner faced from her husband, Ike Turner is well known and horrific. For someone to call themselves a feminist but not to see the issue of including those lyrics in a song, featured in the album people believe solidifies Beyoncé as a feminist, is a bit irresponsible on her part. Also, in her own written articles or interviews, Beyoncé has shared very basic ideas one would hear in a Gender Studies 101 course. I believe the feminsit hype that surrounds her is more about her celebrity status than what she’s actually saying. The obsession over her being a feminist is what causes people to attack her intelligence. Also Beyoncé is vocal in safe, controlled spaces and avoids controversial topics. Not that these things make you dumb, but it doesn’t make you look smart either.
Other professionals have pointed out that Beyoncé has been called “dumb” for allegedly using Photoshop on her Instagram pictures, accusations that she stole performance and song ideas, and not providing much thought-provoking content. An office manager who works in the fashion industry noted that Beyoncé usually, if not always, appears very nervous when she speaks publicly, while others believe Beyoncé’s perfected image makes people want to create flaws for her to have. Andy Anderson, an IT Clinical Liaison who has a financial managerial background said, “I think she is obviously smart because she chooses not to say much. She’s got everything, so it makes people feel better about themselves to suggest that she may not have the intelligence they assume to have themselves.”
I do not blame Beyoncé for not revealing her true feelings about social injustice if every time she tries to take on a cause, she is accused of sounding incompetent and lacking authenticity. Public speaking is an acquired skill that needs constant improvement and with social media becoming an engine for malicious memes and Vines, one misstep would alter how the public perceives, perhaps, the biggest star on the planet. Interestingly enough, the intellect of her husband Jay Z and other male moguls (Diddy, Donald Drumpf and Mark Zuckerburg) is never questioned, nor are they severely ridiculed for not obtaining higher education.
Those of us who’ve graduated with degrees believe the education we’ve acquired makes us experts on any given liberal arts topic, including feminism. As a woman of color whose parents are immigrants, my relationship to feminism is not one dimensional. The feminist theories taught at the university level are based on ideas constructed by White women who have not had experience being a racial minority, nor do they have the cultural agency that comes along with it. If we believe the examples given define intellect, many of us will fall short due to the superficiality of these characterizations.
As millennial women, we are rapidly changing our gender roles by waiting longer for marriage, children and investing more in our professional brands. We are also changing the conversation regarding domestic violence: There are many of us who enjoy being a spectator to violent media content, but could never place ourselves in the shoes of someone on the receiving end of abuse, nor do we try to understand others who have. Even for those who have been abused, women still cross-examine others in order to verify the truth of her experience. By using these modules, it appears being dumb has nothing to do with IQ, but everything to do with how you perform gender roles in your personal or professional space. And that alone is flawed.
Do you think Beyoncé is as “dumb” as some try to make her seem? If so, what does “dumb” mean to you?
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