On Sunday night, Patricia Arquette called for equal pay during her acceptance speech at the 2015 Academy Awards ceremony.
It was just one of the powerful political points made that night — a welcome change to the one-dimensional world of celebrity that, in many instances, fails to make good use of such a visible platform.
For that, we should thank her. Women are still paid less than men and the wage gap isn’t expected to close for another 40+ years. But it was what Arquette didn’t say that remains a throbbing headache in our Oscar hangover — her failure to include women of color (queer, cis, or trans). That and these comments made backstage during her post-win interview:
“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.”
Here’s GlobalGrind’s initial reaction:
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.
From AmericanProgress.org: 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.
But last night, while navigating through those sentiments, many white feminists decided to “whitesplain” and dismiss the need for intersectionality — a term Fusion writer Latoya Peterson effectively defined with this:
Feminists may complain about mansplaining, but feminists of color regularly contend with whitesplaining, often in the form of the unwarranted advice that doesn’t fit a certain situation.
And that happened, all over the Twitter-sphere last night. Here’s just one example of many, involving GlobalGrind’s own News & Politics Editor Christina Coleman and Democratic communicator and consultant, former Director of Rapid Response, Obama for America, and Eliot Spitzer’s girlfriend Lis Smith.
Like Coleman wrote earlier today, “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.”
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty