By Kellie C. Murphy
Patricia Arquette, winner of last night’s Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Boyhood, gave an impassioned acceptance speech. She called for equal pay for women and asked that all people put some energy into supporting women. “It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America,” she exclaimed. Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez cheered enthusiastically from the front row as many of us pumped our fists in agreement.
After jumping off the couch, I yelled and clapped with my arms lifted high above my head. I immediately wanted to watch my personal DVD of True Romance, one of my favorite flicks, which stars Patricia as “Alabama Worley,” a renegade romantic who viciously and violently defends herself — without any male aid — against a Mafia hitman played by the late, great James Gandolfini.
It was the BOMB.
Then, Arquette went backstage, where more press interviews usually take place and promptly jammed her over-privileged foot squarely in her over-privileged mouth.
“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.”
Gulp. Now what now?
Half of the “gay people” and “people of color” in the United States are WOMEN, Patty. Therein lies the problem. The number one issue that “womanysts” (feminists of color who felt the need to create their own subgroup/term) have with White feminists is that the larger feminist movement does not respect, or even acknowledge, women of color. Many Black feminists and other feminists of color say that the White feminist movement did NOTHING for us. How’d they “fight for us?” With feminism on the lips of many in 2015, Arquette’s statement can best be described as tone deaf. It shows the divisions in the movement precisely because of the schism between the races.
When I woke up this morning and checked my social media feeds, it did not surprise me to see the #PatriciaArquette hashtag and many pointed and angry ‘Black Twitter’ threads regarding Ms. Arquette and her comments. Everything from a “how dare she” tone to a “they’re only willing to support black MALES” attitude rule the day over in TweetLand. Some folks suggested that — as assumed by many folks in the Black community — White women benefitted much more from the Civil Rights Movement than any people of color ever did.
This issue totally frustrates many feminist women of color and I totally get it. According to The American Association of University Women, White women make 78 cents to a White man’s dollar in the United States, while Black women earn a mere 64 cents, and Latina women take home a paltry 54 cents. Being gay or transgender often means taking a hit in income. Women of color (and gay and transgender women) don’t owe Ms. Arquette or the White feminist movement a damned thing. Can we expect to resolve this conflict with outright Internet hostility?
We can unite on this issue without the negative back and forth on Twitter. Arquette meant well. She just won a freaking Oscar and reacted with predictable excitement. Let’s forgive her poor choice of words and celebrate her speech. She’s just not fully informed and missed the bigger issue … as White folks tend to do.
This can be an incredible, teachable moment if we don’t allow anger and competition to spoil it. Y’all White women do not live on some island by yourselves. Let’s give Patty her props … along with the 411 on our issues.
#Intersectionality #Unity #Feminism #Love