Home Social Justice Opinion: Arquette’s Oscar speech on women’s wage equality needed

Opinion: Arquette’s Oscar speech on women’s wage equality needed

6 min read

At the 2015 Oscars, Patricia Arquette made a rally call for women’s wage equality in the United States. She was nominated for a role as a supporting actress in “Boyhood.”  Her feminist message was brief and stuck within a 10 second time window at the end of the acceptance speech for her performance.  The internet took hold of this moment in Oscar history to give the full trolling treatment it gives to everyone.  Feminists and conservatives inadvertently joined together to remark in all sorts of critical ways on Arquette’s 10 seconds of activism.

Arquette’s basic message: women should be paid equally to men, women have supported other historically subjected groups of people and so there should be political reciprocity between these groups.

Within the context of Oscar speeches turned political rants (right before the audio team sends the microphone back into the floor), I took this message to mean: Anybody who is not a white male should join together to increase bargaining power for the marginalized in society.

This makes sense. When the Constitution read ‘equality’ at its founding, it specifically meant to create conditions of equal moral and thus political worth between white property-owning men.  Anyone else who has achieved formal equality within the parameters of this document has had to put up a fight for it.

Race and sex have been relentlessly employed by wealthy elites (white, property-owning men) to disintegrate ties between people who might otherwise band together for the common goal of a more inclusive constitutional equality. Racial and sexual categories—which have culturally defined boundaries—are backed less and less by science with each passing day of the last century.

Yet, they are taken as natural by many, and they have historically convinced people to consent to and to maintain a society that respects and follows the boundaries of the ‘natural’ sexual and racial categories between people.

Arquette’s speech, I believe, is meant to chip away at the façade these boundaries create even if it’s not articulated well enough for everyone. She did mention that taxpayers are birthed from women, but is this really worth tearing a call for women’s equality apart?

I too note the conservatism in this part of the speech.  But it’s no myth that conservatives are less likely to support affirmative action programs for the marginalized, including women. For change to occur, a feminist must engage those who resist the upward movement of women within society. It seems like Arquette prefers to appeal to the conservative sentiment when engaging; this sentiment typically favors those who ‘contribute’ to society in the conservative sense.

Arquette’s language here shouldn’t be enough to draw such deep divisions within the online feminist community.  I’m not saying first, second and third wave feminists should all get together all kum-ba-yah, but a lesson from the recent past may be learned from the left-wingers of America.

A true lefty may have preferred Nader to Gore in the 2000 presidential election, but I think that in this specific case the lefty’s might still wish they had just all settled for Gore—after witnessing Bush’s 8-year reign.

Perhaps baby-steps aren’t enough for women’s equality, but at least Arquette is contributing to a consistency of feminist attacks on the status-quo.

The new generations of women will enjoy some of the progress earned by their feminist ancestors, and upon receiving it may become complacent as a group, which could re-open the floodgates for an even more hegemonic, masculine power structure within society.

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