Taking the stage to accept the award for Best Supporting Actress at Sunday’s Oscars ceremony, Boyhood‘s Patricia Arquette delivered an impassioned speech about gender equality that arguably stole the show.
“To every woman that gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America,” she said, eliciting loud applause from the audience.
And understandably, too. If I’d been there, I’d have been fist-pumping right alongside Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez. Arquette obviously brings up a very relevant and long overdue point — according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the gender earnings gap has narrowed by less than two percentage points in the past decade.
At this rate, the current gender wage cap can’t be expected to close until 2058… if we’re lucky.
Still, as inspiring as the Oscar winner’s words were and as proud as I am to have heard them coming from one of my all-time favorite actresses, it’s what Arquette said when she hit the press room after the show that brings to light an even harsher truth.
When asked about her speech by the media, Arquette responded with a largely eloquent response. But, as you can see around the 2:30 mark below, there was this:
“It’s time for all the women in America — and all the men that love women and all the gay people and all the people of color that we’ve all fought for — to fight for us now.”
Eesh. It’s hard to follow up that kind of impassioned speech. She was coming off one of the most inimitable, exciting moments of her life, and she was likely exhausted. Unfortunately, in that moment of fatigue and comedown, she chose some unfortunate words in the vein of feminist whitesplaining. And others noticed:
— UltraViolet (@UltraViolet) February 23, 2015
Because while the points Arquette made about gender wage equality were so, so true, what she said in that press room speaks to the fact that “the gay people” and “the people of color” she spoke of are still often inadvertently considered second-class citizens. (And, sadly, often not inadvertently, too.)
After all, aren’t there also gay women and women of color? While Arquette’s misstep may likely have been a mere matter of semantics, it shouldn’t be ignored.
Women in those groups have even fewer people fighting for their wage equality than white women do, and it shows. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau show that white women earn only 77 cents for every dollar white men earn.
For African-American women, that figure drops to 69 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts. For Latinas, it drops to a paltry 58 cents on the dollar compared to Latino men.
And compared to white men? Well, those figures are far more disheartening.
Yes, I still adore Patricia Arquette. I still wholeheartedly stand behind her acceptance speech on gender equality. But I also think that we, as white women, must realize that to truly effect change we have to accept that gender wage inequality doesn’t begin — or end — with us.
UPDATE: Patricia Arquette responded to this backlash on Monday, Feb. 23, via Twitter:
Wage equality will help ALL women of all races in America. It will also help their children and society.
— Patricia Arquette (@PattyArquette) February 23, 2015