One of the most rousing moments of last night’s too-predictable Oscar telecast was Patricia Arquette’s call for wage equality. While accepting her Best Supporting Actress Oscar, the Boyhood star gave an impassioned plea for women to be paid as much as men, inspiring cheers from audience members like Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez (whose approval we captured in the GIF below).
However, when Arquette elaborated to the press backstage, her message went off in an unfortunate direction. The actress is now facing a backlash for saying that “it’s time” for gay people and people of color to stand up for women’s rights.
“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,” said Arquette backstage (via Jezebel). With this ill-considered comment, Arquette drew a separation between women, people of color, and LGBT people, three groups that have significant overlap and all struggle with wage inequality (particularly those who fall into two or more of those categories).
Maybe Arquette was trying create a connection between the struggling single mother of Boyhood and the historical examinations of racism and homophobia in fellow Best Picture contenders Selma and The Imitation Game. But instead of making a larger point about discrimination, Arquette appeared to be saying to those who fight for equality, Okay, we solved your problems – now you need to return the favor.
A closer look at Arquette’s Oscar speech reveals that she may have been trying to make this same point onstage. “To every woman who gave birth, to every tax payer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights,” said Arquette. “It��s our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America.” That line about having “fought for everyone else’s equal rights” sailed over the heads of most viewers. The Oscar audience probably assumed that Arquette was talking specifically about the Hollywood wage gap, which became a hot-button issue after last years’ Sony hacks revealed that American Hustle actresses Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams were paid less than their male co-stars.
This morning on Twitter, Arquette attempted to further clarify her position with a series of statements on equal pay. “I have long been an advocate for the rights of the #LBGT community. The question is why aren’t you an advocate for equality for ALL women?” Arquette wrote. And later: “Guess which women are the most negatively effected in wage inequality? Women of color. #Equalpay for ALL women. Women stand together in this.”