On the heels of a year chock-full of political and liberation movements, the 2015 award season is proving that Hollywood has become more cognizant of the national (and many times, global) stage at their feet. In short, Hollywood has been touched by the activism bug.
This is not to erase artists and performers who have long used their craft as a platform for their impassioned arguments. But if the Grammys or the Golden Globes are any indication, something is stirring when those cameras are turned off.
Take Patricia Arquette, recipient of the Oscars’ Best Supporting Actress award for her role in Boyhood, for example. Arquette has long been an advocate for women’s rights (after the Sony hack revealed that actresses were getting paid less than males, Arquette was unapologetically vocal about the wage gap between men and women) and Sunday night was no different. In an acceptance speech that had the great Meryl Streep up off her seat, Arquette said this:
“To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody’s equal rights. It is our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”
Kudos. This is a fine and welcome critique. For that, we thank Arquette. We can all agree that the wage gap still exists. It has barely budged in a decade and it’s not expected to do so for some 40+ years.
But during her backstage interview, Arquette took her call above and beyond, demanding people of color as well as gay people strap up their boots to help women reach the mountaintop. Her reasoning: because we helped you.
“It is time for us … We don’t have equal rights for Americans. The truth is even though we sort of feel like there is, there are huge issues that are at play and really do affect women.
It’s time for all the women in America, and the men who love women and all the gay people and people of color we’ve all fought for to fight for us now.”
Certainly not the best thing to ask for in what is arguably the largest black liberation movement in decades, a movement sparked by state violence against people of color who have long requested (and have been denied) the help of white allies to dismantle systemic racism. But let’s be clear, asking for help to reach equality isn’t the crime here. Failing to realize there are nuances to this issue, layers that need to be addressed because they exclude women of color, is the real disservice.
By failing to address that “all the women in America” include women of color both cis and queer, Arquette unintentionally erased them from the wage gap fight. The truth is, women of color earn less than white women on average and to ask a group of people to fight for you when you disproportionately make more is…insulting.
Women on average earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns for comparable work—a gender wage gap of 23 percent. Women of color suffer from an even more severe gap. According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, African American women and Latinas in the United States are paid $18,817 and $23,298 less than non-Hispanic white men yearly, respectively. That’s 64 cents and 55 cents for every dollar a man earns.
It’s also necessary to note that “all the gay people and people of color” have long fought and supported the “women” Arquette speaks of because their civil rights have always been intertwined, though not the same. Implying that it is time they step up has diminished decades of work done by those two marginalized groups and suggests that any gains in that arena for people of color and gay people are due to white American women.
To believe that statement, when both gay people and PoC are still fighting for basic rights, would mean we choose to be willfully obtuse.
Let’s be just as intentional about who is actually bearing the brunt of the wage inequality fight as we are about calling out wage inequality on a national stage. Erasure is just as dangerous as the inequality Arquette spoke of.
Watch her backstage interview below:
SOURCE: AmericanProgress.org | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty