Ever entertaining, this year’s Oscars of course didn’t fail to please fans, but one winner in particular caused a bit of controversy with her award acceptance speech. Patricia Arquette, who won Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Boyhood, outright called for equal pay for women in America, continuing backstage: “It’s time for all the women in America and all the men who love women and all the gay people and all the people of colour that we’ve fought for, to fight for us now.”
At this, Twitter erupted in criticism at the irony of a wealthy, white woman specifically highlighting the responsibility of minority groups to support her cause, many of whom are much worse off in society.
For instance, Roxane Gay (@rgay) said: “The idea that queers & POC have had their time in the struggle spotlight long enough. Eek. Ma’am. Congrats on yr Oscar tho. You are talented.” Ena Goquiolay (@talithaena) was in agreement with Roxane and sarcastically proclaimed: “People of colour at the back, get in this toast. To white women!” Similararly @mattalexscott tweeted that “lesbians and women of colour really need to start pulling their weight in the fight for the rights of straight white women apparently.”
But despite these comments, the principle of her statement held value. Equal pay is an issue, especially given the recent Sony hacking scandal, which revealed that Jennifer Lawrence was being paid significantly less than her male co-stars, making it clear that even in something as glamorous as the showbiz world, women simply don’t have fair pay yet.
Sure, people might still argue that among such a rich collective of people, this fight for more pay seems a bit ridiculous; as if celebrities are arguing over whose mansion is biggest. But gender inequality is becoming an increasingly publicised issue, and nitty gritty complaints aside, the fact that Patricia used her moment on stage to bring this problemto light, when she could have quite easily just said her “oh-my-goshes” and “thank-yous” and have been done with it, is quite a noble (and selfless) route to take.
Her points focussed on how older women in the industry are also being underpaid, and ideas about how real change needs to happen both in westernised countries, as well as those elsewhere. The highlight of her backstage interview was the day-to-day work that she was and has been doing for her charity, www.givelove.org. Patricia’s charity, founded in 2010 after the Haiti disaster, helps to provide clean water and sanitation in developing countries, and in noting this work in the press conference backstage, she highlighted the importance of the bigger picture.
She even mentioned skipping her manicure for the Oscars (for fear of “the dreaded ManiCam”) that very morning to do some research and promotion for a sweepstakes she was organising for givelove.
Although we all might love the drama and gossip in picking apart her rousing speech, instead the focus perhaps should not be on who exactly should be fighting for equality for women, and whether her call for action was politically correct, but perhaps on the general equality that needs to be fought for: amongst genders, amongst minorities and simply worldwide.
So here’s one last thing, and if you take nothing else from this article, at least take this. To be in the top 10% bracket of global income, you have to be earning a mere £12,000 a year. That’s right: £12,000. This is according to ‘Giving what we can’, which hosts a ‘How Rich Am I?’ calculator on its website. Your parents are probably in that bracket. You, (providing the degree pays off) will also be in that bracket. And we can safely assume that everyone at the Oscars will be in that bracket too. Whilst “equal” means fair treatment, pay and everything else, “equal” first and foremost means the right to function normally, as a human being. That means clean water and sanitation. So next time you are due for a manicure like Patricia, or maybe due for a heavy night out, skip the mani, pass on a drink, and put the money towards something that will really matter.