Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Speaking out for social justice at the Academy Awards Ceremony

Patricia Arquette standing up for women's equality. (The New Agenda)
In yesterday's post, I mentioned the possibility that the movies are catching up to the likes of the edgy Penumbra Theatre in St. Paul, MN where drama and storytelling support social justice. I was referring to the "political statements" made during the Academy Awards Ceremony. The New Agenda's Anita Finlay applauds best supporting actress Patricia Arquette for standing up for women's equality in her acceptance speech.

Finlay reports:

Patricia Arquette brought excitement to an otherwise lackluster Oscar telecast with her impassioned speech on behalf of women’s equality.  Upon accepting the award for Best Supporting Actress, she stood before a worldwide audience of 1 billion and declared: “To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and every 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 got a sustained standing ovation and enthusiastic whoops from none other than Meryl Streep, not to mention worldwide twitter love for her statements.  And whether or not you like politics mixed in with your awards telecast, Arquette is right.

It was widely assumed in the press that in asking for women’s equality, Ms. Arquette was referring to the under-representation of women in Hollywood, both in front of and behind the camera. Women helm only 6% of film projects and are outnumbered 4 to 1 in on screen representation.  SONY also got a black eye last year when it was revealed that its female execs made far lower salaries than their male counterparts and Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence was paid less in America Hustle than her lesser known and less celebrated male co-stars.

Arquette would not be the first to speak out on women’s behalf.  Upon winning the Best Actress Oscar last year, Cate Blanchett noted that stories about women do sell tickets.  Women do fascinate beyond “Bond girls.”  Was Arquette addressing this as part of the issue …yes.  Was that her main point?  I think not.

While I’m sure Patricia Arquette was addressing women’s inequality in all its forms, her Oscar speech made a passionate plea for the recognition of women of all social strata – 73% of us are in the work force and 40% are sole breadwinners or head of household, yet 2/3 of minimum wage jobs are held by women.  So to those in Congress, like Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who say that getting and enforcing equal pay laws for women don’t matter – think again.

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