Monday, February 23, 2015

It's A Start

Everybody is buzzing about Patricia Argquette's response to being named last night best supporting actress at Sunday night's Academy Awards extravaganza. Well, maybe not everyone, but it's an excuse for a post.  Upon accepting (video below) her award, Arquette stated 

Okay, Jesus. Thank you to the Academy, to my beautiful, powerful nominees. To IFC, Jonathan Sehring, John Sloss, Cathleen Sutherland, Molly Madden, David DeCamillo, our whole cast and our crew. My Boyhood family, who I love and admire. Our brilliant director Richard Linklater. The impeccable Ethan Hawke. My lovelies, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater. Thomas and Paul, thank you for giving me my beautiful children. Enzo and Harlow, you’re the deepest people that I know.

My friends who all work so hard to make this world a better place. To my parents, Rosanna, Richmond, Alexis and David. To my favorite painter in the world, Eric White, for the inspiration of living with a genius. To my heroes, volunteers and experts who have helped me bring ecological sanitation to the developing world 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. 

Backstage, she clarified her earlier remarks, explaining

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.

Salon's Katie McDonough argues

White women need to stand in solidarity with the women of color who are already organizing for fair pay, reliable scheduling and living wages — not the other way around. (White women also need to stop voting against those interests.) It’s essential that this kind of an intersectional analysis shape how we talk about equal pay, particularly when white women talk about equal pay.

Even less generously, Amanda Marcotte contends

Where to begin? Perhaps with pointing out that “gay people” and “people of color” are both categories that include women. Indeed, when it comes to wage inequality, race is as much a factor as gender....

Arquette's comments also erased the major contributions made by women of color and lesbians to the feminist movement, as if they haven't been fighting all this time. That's a troubling message to send at any point, but it's particularly disturbing right now, when some of the ugliest attacks on women's rights, particularly when it comes to reproductive health care access, are aimed at low-income women who are disproportionately women of color. 

Where, indeed, do we begin? Perhaps by pointing out that the breathless Arquette, who spent most of her time thanking personal and professional colleagues, also didn't mention the minimum wage. Or attacks by the right on unions. Or tax breaks for the  wealthy. Or terrorist attacks by Boko Haram.  As an actress bringing attention to a problem, she needn't have mentioned those things, nor lesbians or "women of color." (And why do some media leftists persist in referring to "women of color," A/K/A colored women?)

But McDonough may be on to something when she refers to reproductive health care access. Today, schools and businesses were closed in Dallas, Texas due to ice and sleet and people there could be forgiven for thinking the end of the world was near,  On this date, Rush Limbaugh made a good point. Amidst his usual nonsense, he remarked

All right, stop the tape.  To every woman (panting) to every woman (panting) who gave birth.  Did she just diss women who've had abortions?  You don't hear this. That's a mistake, it's a faux pas.  I'm sure she didn't intend it, but you don't hear this kind of reference in Hollywood, particularly at the Oscars, honoring women who've given birth. 

A reasonable person might ask: what the heck was Arquette (or her ghostwriter) thinking? No, really- what was she thinking when saying "To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation?" Arquette was reading a script as she made a plea for pay equity and equal rights, which one would think would have been unnecessary given that the statement was vague and fairly unobjectionable- and given by an actress, who should be able deliver a brief commentary on the fly.

Still, it was a beginning, and not without criticism. Most of it was unjustified. McDonough, Marcotte, and Think Progress' Tara Culp-Ressler are exorcised that Arquette failed to exhibit a special concern for "women of color." (Presumably, that is black women, though that would leave out Hispanics and Asians. Someone should ask the linguistically deprived.) The right was also not pleased, with  actress Stacey Dash admitting "I miss the glamour, the elegance, the class, the majesty of the Oscars." If Arquette had mentioned the dirty little secret- that restricting women's reproductive rights renders attainment of pay equity impossible- there is no telling how upset conservatives may have gotten.

Dash's reaction demonstrates that even Arquette's message- short, clumsily written and delivered- is likely to have a beneficial effect. The Academy Awards is an orgy of elitist self-congratulation, bad taste, and superficiality, not unlike Hollywood generally. If an injection of realism into the event, a reminder of the real world, reminds a few people in the motion picture industry that the planet does not revolve around them, Patricia Arquette has performed a major public service.

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