Can We Leave Patricia Arquette Alone And Talk About The Wage Gap?

Patricia Arquette
Buzz, Self

To completely reduce her to a clueless exclusionary feminist is simply unfair.

As you may or may not heard, there is a rumbling within the feminist community.

Upon winning the best supporting actress Oscar for her role in Boyhood, Patricia Arquette passionately gave a speech regarding equal rights for women saying " To every woman who gave birth to every citizen and taxpayer of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights,” she said. “It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”

Which was all fine and dandy. Even Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez got up off their feet to applaud.

Unfortunately things took a turn for the worse when she continued speaking to the press backstage. "The truth is even though we sort of feel like we have equal rights in America, there are huge issues that are at play that really do affect women. It's time for all the gay people and people of color that we've all fought for to fight for us now."

Ouch. By separating "gay people" and "people of color" from women, her statement seems to suggest that she doesn't quite think that the lesbian and minority women actually qualify as women. The logical conclusion being that the fight for equal rights only includes white women. Immediately bloggers and tweeters rushed to chime in. Roxanne Gay (one of my favorite feminists and author of "Bad Feminist") tweeted:

The idea that queers & POC have had their time in the struggle spotlight long enough. Eek. Ma'am. Congrats on yr Oscar tho. You are talented

— roxane gay (@rgay) February 23, 2015

Over on The Grio, writer Blue Telusma calls her a fool saying, "If you say black people need to stand up for you—that means you are asking every person in the room who is both black and a woman to choose her gender over her race in order to suit your agenda. It’s a very subtle form of feminist segregation that I’ve heard about for a few years now. And it’s complete b.s."

I totally get why people are pissed off. For an already severely marginalized group, it seems like another slap in the face. But I can't help but wonder is all the vitriol being hurled against Arquette really befitting the “crime”?

While she most certainly chose the wrong words, she DID choose to bring a major feminist issue to a rather large national platform. The reality is Arquette is a wealthy white woman and she doesn’t have to say anything about equal pay. She could have, like the hundreds of other performers at the Oscars, SAG Awards, and Grammys, kept her mouth shut.

Not even Beyoncé, pop culture’s reigning feminist queen has ever chosen to use such a huge platform to give a speech on feminist issues (no shade to Bey). Arquette also used her time on stage to promote her charity called Give Love, which helps rebuild communities in Haiti destroyed by the earthquake. Sadly in the wake of the brouhaha, this part of her speech was forgotten by most.

So is Patricia Arquette really an exclusionary racist? I don’t think so. As an Indian-American woman, I have rallied in support of Eric Garner and protested California’s Proposition 8. Yet I can’t say any of my gay male friends have remotely ever been concerned with gender equality.

I have Indian-American friends (male and female) who have gotten up in arms about the racially motivated beating of Sureshbhai Patel here in the U.S., yet who are decidedly less vocal when it comes to women’s rights. I would love to see these same friends be as interested in gender equality. Is it really awful to want other marginalized groups to support each other? Though I would have never phrased it the way Arquette did, I would have to say no I don’t believe it is. 

Lest we forget when it comes to a wage gap, black and transgender women are often at the bottom. Championing equal wages for women is something that will help all women no matter what their race or sexual preference or identity is. To nit-pick Arquette’s well-intentioned comments is to detract from the larger problem which needs far more attention.

Instead of fighting amongst ourselves we should fighting for the larger cause at hand. I do not pretend that I can even begin to understand the black, gay or transgender experience. But I do know that as women we have ALL (black, white, Asian, transgender, Latina, lesbian) have experienced some form of sexism, whether it's not making as much money or simply being catcalled.

To reduce Arquette's message to one quote would be remiss and irresponsible. Yes, feel irritated and annoyed by it. But to completely reduce her to a clueless exclusionary feminist is simply unfair. Instead of focusing on her message of equal pay, we now have the media focusing on the war of words taking place on Twitter.

Had the same remarks been made by the likes of Elisabeth Hasselback or Michelle Bachman, I would have been much more likely to find the comments offensive given their general viewpoints. But Patricia Arquette? Not so much. We've all stuck our foot in our mouth at one point. Even the aforementioned Roxanne Gay found herself being attacked after she tweeted “Are there black people in Australia?” setting of a wave of angry tweets.

.@rgay You could show some humility, accept you asked in a disrespectful way & rephrase. You don't, despite it being pointed out. #Arrogance

— Martin Hodgson (@MartinGHodgson) February 24, 2015

Gay finally expressed remorse saying, “I apologize for the clumsy and disrespectful phrasing of my question. I will do better next time. Goodnight all.”  As far as Arquette, she clarified by saying (though an apology would have been nice) “Guess which women are the most negatively effected in wage inequality? Women of color. #Equalpay for ALL women. Women stand together in this.”

So yes, we all say stupid things that we don’t mean. I don’t think Gay is ignorant. And I don’t believe Arquette is a racist. Can we all just agree that she said something stupid and move on? Because we have more pressing issues at hand. Like gender equality.


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