Intersectionality: What Patricia Arquette’s Oscar Speech Left Out

By Bridget Sykes
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This past Sunday saw the 87th Academy Awards; a night of recognition for the best of the best in the movie industry. Over 36.6 million people watched the Oscars, so it makes sense that so many winners chose to champion important issues to such a widespread audience. Amidst the many powerful acceptance speeches, Patricia Arquette’s caught my attention. She finished her thank you with: “To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”

I was initially ecstatic that she had made such a public plea for gender equality, but became crestfallen after I read the comments she made backstage. She expanded on her speech, saying, “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 that are applied that really do affect women. 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.” While Arquette later corrected herself on Twitter, her comments felt contradictory, as if she were asking the LGBT+ and African-American community to forgo their struggles to help close the pay gap for white women. It also seemed that Arquette was completely unaware of intersectionality (a term coined by and written extensively on by American professor Kimberlé Crenshaw). Intersectionality is the theory that oppressive institutions like racism and sexism are not exclusive to each other. The

Black Feminist movement is directly correlated to this concept. The systems of society have different effects on every person and Arquette’s plea seemed to affect only a small percentage of those people (white women).

The statistic that women make 78 cents for every dollar that men make is widely accepted but not entirely correct. White women make 78 cents for every dollar that white men make. Black and Hispanic men and women make even less. One can’t help but wonder if Arquette had these groups in mind during her speech.

Feminism demands equality for all. I welcome and encourage Patricia Arquette and other celebrities to use their influence to familiarize their audiences with feminism. But if they so choose to accept their roles as vehicles of change, they must also accept their responsibility to spread truth and fact. They must recognize that feminism is accessible to all women and those women are not all white, able-bodied, and upper middle class.

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