It’s OK, Patricia Arquette

By Marissa Luna

I hope that if Patricia Arquette learned one thing after her Oscar acceptance speech and subsequent backlash from every corner of the Internet it’s that words matter.

The Oscars were last Sunday and Patricia Arquette won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in “Boyhood.” In her acceptance speech, she called for equal pay for equal work for women, saying:

“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.”

She continued in her backstage interview:

“The truth is, right under the surface, there are huge issues that are at play that 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 all fought for to fight for us now.”

Within moments, the Internet was calling her out on her “intersectionality fail,” and with good reason.

For decades, feminists have largely ignored how race, class, gender expression, and sexual orientation together impact women’s rights, choosing to focus on primarily privileged white women’s fight for equality. Despite being unintentional, Arquette’s exclusionary statements continue to “whitewash” feminism.

Her words were a well-intentioned attempt to speak out about an issue that many more people in Hollywood should be speaking out about, and I don’t think she should be attacked for that. At the same time, the specific words she chose in her attempt to convey a broader message both on-stage and backstage nullified the message that she was trying to get across. I support those who responded attempting to educate Arquette on how those words ignored the diverse groups of people who are impacted by feminism.

Feminism is worthless without intersectionality and inclusion. When celebrities speak, the whole world is watching and can respond in record time. That’s just the digitoral world we live in now, and I think that’s a good thing. Words matter, and we should absolutely hold highly influential people accountable to theirs, even if their overall message is progressive and well meaning.