Patricia Arquette brought excitement to an otherwise lackluster Oscar telecast with her impassioned speech on behalf of women’s equality. Upon accepting the award for Best Supporting Actress, she stood before a worldwide audience of 1 billion and declared: “To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and every 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 got a sustained standing ovation and enthusiastic whoops from none other than Meryl Streep, not to mention worldwide twitter love for her statements. And whether or not you like politics mixed in with your awards telecast, Arquette is right.
It was widely assumed in the press that in asking for women’s equality, Ms. Arquette was referring to the under-representation of women in Hollywood, both in front of and behind the camera. Women helm only 6% of film projects and are outnumbered 4 to 1 in on screen representation. SONY also got a black eye last year when it was revealed that its female execs made far lower salaries than their male counterparts and Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence was paid less in America Hustle than her lesser known and less celebrated male co-stars.
Arquette would not be the first to speak out on women’s behalf. Upon winning the Best Actress Oscar last year, Cate Blanchett noted that stories about women do sell tickets. Women do fascinate beyond “Bond girls.” Was Arquette addressing this as part of the issue …yes. Was that her main point? I think not.
While I’m sure Patricia Arquette was addressing women’s inequality in all its forms, her Oscar speech made a passionate plea for the recognition of women of all social strata – 73% of us are in the work force and 40% are sole breadwinners or head of household, yet 2/3 of minimum wage jobs are held by women. So to those in Congress, like Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who say that getting and enforcing equal pay laws for women don’t matter – think again.
In her award winning role in “Boyhood,” Arquette plays a single mom who educates herself to provide a better life for her two kids. Arquette was no stranger to this reality, as she became a single mother at 19 and juggled several jobs between auditions in order to care for her son. Per The New York Times, her maternal instinct to, as she put it, “drag meat back for my young,” helped to steel her and grow her career rather than stall it, as one might expect. In this regard, it was lovely to see an actor celebrated for playing a mommy who, while imperfect, always showed up with everything she had for her kids.
Arquette has also founded a charity and works to build homes on behalf of the disadvantaged, so she has experience with women’s lesser representation in governments (here and abroad) directly equating to the empty lip service paid to women’s equality or laws that would benefit working mothers.
Per a study just released by the Department of Professional Employees this month:
“Women make up more than half of the professional and technical workforce in the United States. While the status for women in the workforce has improved over the last several decades, many women still struggle for equality in many occupations. Women are earning post-secondary degrees at a faster rate than men are, yet a wage gap persists. Some portion of the wage gap may result from decisions women make, personal job preference, or socio-economic circumstances; however, many still face overt or subtle employment discrimination, contributing to continued inequality.”
While I am typically not a fan of the political at an awards show, I confess my own bias on this particular issue and appreciated Arquette’s honesty in noting that women are great at championing the rights of other groups – as we did with Civil rights and Gay rights. We are also the ones encouraging our husbands to get their prostates checked – among other things. Just as the kids in “Boyhood” take their mommy for granted, women are often taken for granted in our society.
As Ms. Arquette rightly notes, it is now our turn to count on those we have stood up for to stand up for us.
The rousing reaction on twitter worldwide championing Arquette’s statements may signal that we are finally beyond the stage of polite acknowledgement of a cause without also demanding results.
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