At last month’s Oscars, Best Supporting Actress winner Patricia Arquette gave a rousing speech on gender equality. While Meryl Streep and others were visibly bouncing in their seats in agreement with Arquette’s comments, there were those who took issue with her words backstage, suggesting that the actress should have considered her phrasing more carefully.
In the press room backstage, Arquette explained: “And 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.” Though the sentiment was certainly there, perhaps her message was, in some people’s eyes, skewed through her choice of words. Amanda Marcotte, writing for Slate, utterly condemmed her speech saying that it was not all that helpful for the cause of equal pay and feminism. But just because Arquette may be speaking from a point of privilege or success, does not mean that she should not use that position of power to better the lives of countless others, who might not be so lucky, right? Is it really fair to describe her as a privileged white woman trying to become more privileged? It seems Arquette is keen to do more than simply ‘wade into feminism’ just because she’s got a platform on which her voice will be heard. Surely, it’s better than staying quiet, no?
Yesterday then saw the exciting and timely launch of UN Women’s Planet 50-50 by 20-30 initiative, which, as you can probably guess, is aiming for complete and total gender equality within the next 15 years.
There were many amazing women on hand to offer their words of wisdom, among which Hillary Clinton was included. Patricia Arquette was also invited to speak and took the opportunity to clarify some of the points she made at the Oscars. Read an edit of her speech below, via The Cut.
People have asked me why I’m doing this, and it’s true, today I’m blessed, having some material success, for which I’m extremely grateful. But I have other truths, too. If I were to tell you as a child, there were times where I lived below the poverty line, literally not having shoes to wear that fit me, that would also be true. If I told you that I was a single mother at 20, and lived with my baby in a converted garage, and that I would worry about my baby’s nutrition while nursing, because I could only afford to eat macaroni and cheese mixed with water for a week so I could afford diapers, that would also be true.
So let’s be honest: We have in place fair-pay laws that are not ensuring fair pay to women.
The effect of the gender gap is most oppressive for women of color. In the United States, Latina women working full-time are taking home 56 cents to every dollar earned by her male, white co-workers. In California, which is the seventh-largest economy in the whole world, that number dropped last year to 44 cents on the dollar. African-American women earn just 64 cents. White American women may now average 78 cents on the dollar.
Countless lesbian women and women in the transgender community also suffer wage penalties that hurt them and their families. And the women in our transgender community are suffering even more; most are not even able to get a job.
Arquette wrapped up her speech by saying: “This is about supporting families, and getting women what they have already earned for their own hard work… Hold your lawmakers accountable … We are a movement, and we are making changes for our daughters. We matter.”
We think that deserves to be repeated: ‘We matter’.