Jeneé Osterheldt

Oscars aftermath: Patricia Arquette had it right and so wrong

After she won the Oscar for best supporting actress, Patricia Arquette spoke more backstage and didn’t help her cause.
After she won the Oscar for best supporting actress, Patricia Arquette spoke more backstage and didn’t help her cause. AP

Patricia Arquette had one of those golden Oscar moments Sunday night.

When she won an Academy Award for her performance in “Boyhood,” her words moved the crowd, led by Meryl Streep’s standing ovation.

Why? Arquette took her moment to shed light on equal pay for women.

“To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights,” Arquette said. “It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”

original speech

Say that truth, honey. According to the White House, full-time working women earn just 77 percent of what their male counterparts earn. If you factor in part-time workers, says Pew Research, women make 84 percent of what men make. Either way, it bites for us all.

But later, speaking to reporters backstage, Arquette fell into the land of privilege when she insinuated that women’s struggles are separate from other fights for equality.

“It’s time for all women in America and all the men who love women and all the gay people and people of color that we’ve all fought for to fight for us now,” she said.

The blogosphere backlash came quickly.

after show

I’m not looking to tear her down. It’s important that powerful voices use their platforms to push positive change in the world, especially when they are staring into the faces of patriarchy and prejudice. And I applaud Arquette for tackling Hollywood, which behind all of its glam is as ugly as the real world.

Women are reduced to their red-carpet dresses. Even those who earn big paychecks find that their male cast mates typically make more. Thanks to the Sony leaks, we all know that superstars Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams made less than their male co-stars in “American Hustle.”

When Arquette was talking women’s rights, I thought she meant all women –– white, black, Asian, Latina, gay, trans — all women. I mean, black women make even less than white women, and Latinas earn even less than black women. We all deserve equal pay for equal work.

Monday afternoon, Arquette sent out tweets (@PattyArquette) supporting all women: “If you are fighting against #Equalpay you are fighting for ALL women and especially women of color to make less money than men.”

But she didn’t address her suggestion that gay people and people of color need to step up, as if we haven’t been fighting for equality. Does she really think that people of color and the LGBTQ community owe white women? Girl, stop.

Equal rights is not an either/or kind of fight. Equal rights means everybody, all of us. Does she believe that somehow white women, or any women, won the fight for equality for black people and gay people? When, Patty? When did that happen, because I’d love to bask in that glory.

We are still fighting for equality. And that’s the thing about civil rights: It’s layered. These fights co-exist. They overlap. For some of us, we are marching into it with feet rooted in multiple communities.

We are fighting for gay marriage, we are fighting for trans women to not be murdered for being trans, we are fighting against the prison industrial complex (John Legend, who won the best song Oscar, touched on this), we are fighting for immigrants (thank you, director Alejandro Inarritu), we are fighting for the right to be black and not be gunned down for it, and yes, we are fighting for fair wages.

Maybe the reason we’re not winning is that we’re too busy keeping tabs and creating a hierarchy of equality.

To move forward, to actually gain equality, we can’t work against one another. We have to be for human rights for all humans.

To reach Jeneé Osterheldt, call 816-234-4380 or email josterheldt@kcstar.com. On Twitter @jeneeinkc.

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