What’s Wrong With Patricia Arquette’s Comments? A Lot.

The Internet has been buzzing since Sunday night with discussion about actress Patricia Arquette’s Oscar acceptance speech and her followup remarks that were made in the press room afterwards. In case you haven’t been online much, here’s a recap.

During her speech, Arquette said:

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

In the press room, she stated:

It’s time for women. Equal means equal. The truth is the older women get, the less money they make. The highest percentage of children living in poverty are in female-headed households. It’s inexcusable that we go around the world and we talk about equal rights for women in other countries and we don’t. One of those superior court justices said two years ago in a law speech at a university that we don’t have equal rights for women in America and we don’t because when they wrote Constitution, they didn’t intend it for women. So the truth is even though we sort of feel like we have equal rights in America right under the surface there are huge issues at play that really do affect women. 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.

drawing of a woman with blonde hair, crying.

*cue record scratch sound effect* Wait, what?

Arquette’s speech is being described as “impassioned,” “powerful,” and “amazing.” As far as I’m concerned, it wasn’t any of these things. A more accurate description would be simplistic, misguided, and offensive. Not sure what was so bad about it? OK, let’s dig into it.

First of all, the speech itself wasn’t horrible. Yes, it’s great that she used her platform to express her support for a very real issue. (By the way, yes the wage gap DOES exist. Do not let people like Stacey Dash tell you that it was eliminated when the Equal Pay Act went into effect.) No, there’s not enough time on that stage to go into the details about the wage gap and mention the fact that the commonly cited figure of 77 cents on the dollar (compared to white men) only applies to white women. Arquette would not have had time to share the fact that black women earn 64 cents per dollar and Latina women make 56 cents per dollar. And the red light would have gone off before she could say that black and Hispanic men are also paid less than white men.

The time for Patricia Arquette to provide more information about the wage gap issue would have been during backstage interviews. But she didn’t do that. Instead, she chose to use that time to call upon women, men who love women, gay people, and people of color to fight for women and their right to be paid equally. See, in Patricia Arquette’s world, there are four groups of people: women (with an emphasis on those who have given birth), men, gay people, and people of color. In her world, “women” do not include gay people and people of color because, in her world, gay women, women of color, and gay women of color do not exist. There is no overlap and she doesn’t know what “intersectional” means. And in her world, gay people and people of color now have equal rights. They have them because (cisgender heterosexual white) women fought for them so now “they” have to help “us.”

But the rest of us don’t live in Patricia Arquette’s world. The rest of us live in a world where the wage gap issue takes a back seat to issues like not being gunned down by police officers at an alarming rate. The rest of us live in a world where at least seven trans women have been murdered this year so far. We live in a world where 25 percent of black women live in poverty and black transgender women have a life expectancy of 35.

Of course, it only took a few hours for mainstream media outlets like Time to come to Arquette’s defense, claiming that she was being “attacked” and that we should all just leave poor Patricia Arquette alone because she meant well and “her heart was in the right place.” Never mind the fact that what Eliana Dockterman sees as an attack is valid criticism and discussion about the inaccuracies of her comments. See, Patricia Arquette, as a wealthy and famous White Feminist, should be held up as a hero because she has single-handedly done SO much to ensure that women of color and the LGBTQ community have all been given their equal rights. So y’all just stop being so mean to her! Just stop being so angry and go help the rich white lady! And can somebody please go get a jar for Patricia Arquette’s tears?

Update: Patricia Arquette has doubled down with this tweet:

Image source: holohololand

This post originally appeared on Art of Feminism.

By April

If I had a dollar for every time I got distracted, I wish I had some ice cream.

8 replies on “What’s Wrong With Patricia Arquette’s Comments? A Lot.”

Yes, ALL women should be supported — regardless of ethnicity or genitalia — by those with privilege. I’m white, mostly agnostic, a grad student, and pan — I will support women who need it as I’m able. Part of that is acknowledging that heterosexual white women are NOT THE DEFAULT and are not the only group of women worth recognizing for their accomplishments.

We can work on decreasing the pay gap AND caring for the abused AND including trans women AND maintaining and improving education for all women. We don’t have to pick one, Patricia. FFS.

It’s all just so disappointing (I know I can use many other words but for me – here – it’s just a tired disappointment) that they don’t see it. That they NEED to think outside of their box because there will be plenty of people that will tell them step back (a bit) if they go too far.

The fact that she got on Twitter and said something like “Don’t talk to me about privilege!” because she grew up poor is yet another example of how she’s just not getting it.

And I keep seeing people say “She never said anything about ONLY white women.” No, she didn’t, but by listing women and then adding on “and men and gay people and people of color” implies that cishet white women are the default.

There’s just so much wrong with all of it. And, yes, disappointing is an appropriate word to describe it, along with frustrating.

Urgh, internet ate my comment. Anyway, I wanted to say that people don’t understand that they speak from their default setting and unless they UNDERLINE including poc, LGBQT and other intersecting lines, they must understand that their message will be received as “just for people like speaker x”

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