Patricia Arquette: Equal Pay Only for White Women

By Albert Lin

Patricia Arquette’s plea for equal pay for women during her Oscar acceptance speech drew almost universal applause, but further comments she made at a press conference backstage generated plenty of ire.

At the end of her acceptance speech for her Best Supporting Actress win, Arquette said, “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 expanded on that thought: “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.”

See her make the above comment at about the 2:20 mark:

At issue are two things: 1) By separating gay people and people of color, Arquette seems to have narrowed her cause down to white women. 2) By saying “we fought for you,” Arquette seems to be suggesting that gay people and people of color have not been fighting for anything this last half century.

As expected, the Twittersphere was not forgiving.

Even mainstream media outlets took their shots. Slate headlined a column “Patricia Arquette’s Feminism: Only for White Women” while The Nation argued “Patricia Arquette’s Equal Pay Message Needs a Drastic Rewrite.”

In the former, Amanda Marcotte concluded, “Arquette’s political grandstanding played into every ugly stereotype about ‘feminism’ being about little more than some privileged white women trying to become more privileged. Her comments were bad for the cause of equal pay and for feminism. Solidarity is not just for white women.”

In the latter, Dave Zirin wrote, “[Arquette’s comment] also blatantly ignoresinstead of owningthe ways in which white-led middle-class feminist movements have in many instances historically ignored or even opposed the movements of workers, people of color and other oppressed groups.”

What is undisputed is that the pay gap existswomen earned 78 cents for every dollar earned by a man in 2013and it’s even worse for women from underrepresented groups.

According to a study by the American Association of University Women:

Statistics on an LGBT-straight pay gap are less conclusive, but still instructional. According to a 2007 report from UCLA’s The Williams Institute that did an analysis of nine studies, gay men earned anywhere from 10 percent to 32 percent less than a similarly qualified straight counterpart, while gay women, oddly, did not appear to earn less than straight women. (One possible explanation: “Lesbians might make different decisions than heterosexual women since they are less likely to marry menwho on average have higher wagesor put their careers on hold to have children. As a result, lesbians might invest in more training or actual labor market experience than do heterosexual women.”)

Williams also found that LGBT families raising children had a median income 22.5 percent less than that of straight couples.

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