Patricia Arquette in the Hotseat

Patricia Arquette in the Hotseat

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At the 2015 Oscars, Patricia Arquette used some of her precious acceptance-speech time to speak about wage equality for women. Exciting, right?! I certainly thought so, and from the standing ovation from women (including Meryl Streep) in the crowds, I assumed that others were also happy to hear this issue being raised.
It wasn’t until the next day that I heard about the backlash. People criticized her for making it seem that women’s rights are more important than black people’s rights or gay people’s rights. They claimed that she herself was being sexist for only speaking about women who have given birth, rather than all women. And they argued that she has no place to talk about this issue at all, as she is a wealthy woman herself.
I hear what “they” are saying. Arquette’s speech was absolutely not perfect. She could have been more specific about income inequality, rather than “wage” inequality, and she could have specified that she meant “all women” rather than just those who had given birth. She also could have spoken about the intersection of identities and that womens’ issues are also LGBTQ issues that are also people of color’s issues. She didn’t do any of those things, and her speech would have been better if she had done so.
But aren’t we being just a little bit hard on her? She was the first person to bring up this issue at this event! She had under a minute to speak, and rather than thank all of the important people in her life, she chose to talk about the wage gap. A writer from the NY Times summed up my concerns with the media’s cricism of Arquette perfectly: “

…As we listen to her words being torn apart, there’s a real risk that other women, other actresses, others who may at various times in their lives have a chance for one minute that the whole country will hear, are hearing something else:


 And wouldn’t the silence be worse than an imperfect speech?

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