Last night, actress Patricia Arquette was awarded an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress at the annual Academy Awards ceremony, a victory that was 12 years in the making.
She received critical acclaim for her role as a single mother in coming-of-age epic Boyhood, delivering a heart-felt performance that solidified her presence in Hollywood as one of the acting greats of our generation. For those of you who need reminding of her fantastic performance, check out the trailer below:
Gracing the stage, she performed the expected round of "thank-you's" to her children, director Richard Linklater, her family of cast members, "the impeccable Ethan Hawke," and boyfriend Eric White, who she called "my favorite painter in the world."
However, her emotional delivery of thanks was not the main reason why Arquette's acceptance speech became the main talking point of the night. Speaking in support of gender equality and female equal pay rights, she brought the house down with one of the most powerful calls to action to be seen on the Oscars podium.
Reading her notes from a white sheet of paper, Arquette underscored her passionate support of female equality, dedicating her final words to American women:
“To every woman who gave birth to every tax payer 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.”
Here she is winning it for women all over the world:
Her speech triggered wild cheers from the star-studded audience, with attention primarily being drawn to three-time Academy Award winner Meryl Streep and her seat mate Jennifer Lopez, who similarly glowed with pride.
Later in the night, Streep admitted that the moment "made my night!" For years, the actress has also been an advocate for income equality for women in Hollywood.
Across the theater, co-star Ethan Hawke was also seen clearly supporting Arquette's sentiment, clapping enthusiastically and sporting an ear-to-ear grin:
Undoubtedly, Arquette's plea for wage equality went down exceedingly well with Hollywood's elite men and women, who rose from their seats in what became one of the evening's biggest ovations.
Later on in the night, Arquette elaborated on her inspirational words, saying:
“We don’t have equal rights for women in America and we don’t because the people who wrote the Constitution, it wasn’t intended for women. [...] The truth is, even if it sort of feels as if there are equal rights in America, right under the surface there are huge issues that are at play that really do affect women.”
The Hollywood gender pay gap scandal
Equal pay is a contentious issue throughout the entire world. Yet most recently, the Sony scandal brought the troubling problem of inequality closer to home, when the company's hacked emails revealed a wide disparity between male and female pay in Hollywood.
In particular, one case became especially high-profile when last December it was discovered that Jennifer Lawrence earned less than her male co-stars in American Hustle. This was despite her playing a greater role in the movie and being an Oscar winner. It was claimed that the movie's profits were unequally divided between the stars, with the men being paid 9%, while Amy Adams and Lawrence received a much lower 7%!
In the Oscars press room, Arquette addressed the subject further, turning attention to the political structures in place that ensure equal pay rights. Addressing the US constitution and the federal laws that bring an end to discrimination, she announced:
"I think we need federal laws that are comprehensive [...] We need to pass a constitutional amendment in the United States of America, so we can pass the ERA once and for all.”
She underlines the long-standing argument that there is simply no reason for women to be paid less than men in similar occupations. It is despicable that the top ten highest-paid actors from 2013 made a collective $465 million dollars, compared to the $181 million earned by the ten highest-paid actresses.
After decades of frustration at a patriarchal system that fails to acknowledge its women, Arquette's speech was simply the nail on the head.
What does the Hollywood pay dispute mean for ordinary women?
While some critics of the speech rightly claim that Hollywood stars do not represent the average citizen due to their exceptionally high salaries in the film industry, Arquette's manipulation of her position in the public eye to raise awareness is very commendable.
Throughout the world, women fail to muster up the courage to stand up for their rights and Arquette's words are all the more powerful because they give a voice to women that have been silenced all of their lives.
Without a doubt, Arquette's booming call to action will not only go down in the history of the Oscars, but it will also resonate with women and governments all over the world, hopefully inspiring confidence and paving the way for gender equality and equal pay rights in the near future.
After all, this is the 21st century and women should be acknowledged for the fabulous creatures that they are and for the work that they do.
Thank you Patricia, for being an inspiring voice of our generation.
What did you think of Arquette's moment of political activism? What are YOUR views on the matter?
Get involved in the discussion in the comment box below.