23 February, 2015

Why Arquette Got it Wrong

Last night was the Oscars. Today there will be tons of commentary on the dresses, the speeches, and Neil Patrick Harris standing in his tighty whiteys. 

Full disclosure: I have seen zero of the films nominated. I am not that big of a film person any more, but still there are actors I respect and follow and it’s interesting to listen to the pre-Oscar hype and then see who walks away with a trophy.

I appreciate speeches that go beyond the, “I’d like to thank my manager, the cast and my dog!” There were two that stood out in that arena to me. But before that, some other highlights.

1. Reece Witherspoon taking on the media.

On the red carpet Witherspoon spoke about the #AskHerMore campaign, a drive to get reporters on the red carpet to do more than ask a woman who she is wearing. Before the event, Witherspoon posted this photo on her Instagram.

It is true that men get asked about their films or interests, while women get asked about whose dresses they are wearing. It’s sexist and a lot more stars are taking a stand. At the SAGs several actresses refused the mini cam (a truly sexist machine if there ever was one!) One even asked: Do you do this to the guys? They are taking a stand. Still, if we ever want to get beyond asking an actress what designer she is in. Maybe we should get rid of Fashion Police and all the shows tonight that will do nothing but talk about the dresses and reduce women down to pieces of meat. The mini cam before, people dissecting stars’ appearance after - how are they different?

2. Neil Patrick Harris acknowledging the seat fillers.

I think Harris did a fine job hosting. It’s hard to keep people entertained when you only have 15 seconds. I enjoyed the envelope gig, though maybe he should have revealed it before they were over on time. The best Oscar host is still Jon Stewart. It’s time to invite him back.

3. Lady Gaga.

I was cynical at best, annoyed at worse, that they would have Lady Gaga anywhere near the Oscars. She is herself an act, someone who creates chaos and lunacy for attention. My criticism of her singing ability was silenced last night, but then it raised the question: if you can sing like that why do you put out the pop crap you do? It would be like finding out Justin Bieber could sing at a Broadway level and yet chooses to put out the lyrically low, technically insulting dribble he does. We all know Pink can sing, so her belting it out last year for the Wizard of Oz was no surprise, just a really warm, awesome, triumphant moment. She brought creditability to her already varied career. All Lady Gaga did last night was make it harder to go back to singing about her Poker Face. And it also showed she has no idea what to do when she is standing there in a ball gown verses jiving on stage dressed in meat.

The two speeches that stood out to me were Graham Moore for best adapted screenplay and Patricia Arquette for Boyhood. To me those are the best and worse speeches of the night.

Moore’s speech was genuine, heartfelt, emotional and real. As someone who did not fit in either, it was encouraging for him to reach back and encourage others. It was a humbling moment in an otherwise superficial display.
“When I was 16 years old, I tried to kill myself because I felt weird and I felt different and I felt like I did not belong. And now, I’m standing here and I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she’s weird or she’s different or she doesn’t fit in anywhere: Yes, you do. I promise you do. You do. Stay weird, stay different. And then, when it’s your turn and you are standing on this stage, please pass the same message to the next person who comes along.”

Which brings me to Mrs. Arquette. I found her speech jumbled, chaotic and misplaced. She went through the standard thanks you, before mentioning something about helping people in third world counties and then launched into how the time for women’s equality in America is now.
"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 is why Arquette’s plea failed.

As women in America, we have it pretty good. As far as equal rights go, we can vote, we have control over our bodies, we can do what we want, and we get an education.

Do women need to get paid the same as men? Hell yes. It is insulting that women work just as hard as men, putting in the same time, making an equal contribution and get paid 22% less. It is wrong and in 2015 it should not be.

Yet I take issue when people (women especially) paint the picture that women in America are back in the 1700s. We have helped everyone else get equal rights (a total falsehood) and yet women are still domesticated house servants! Please. You want to talk women’s equality let’s talk about how martial rape is legal in Afghanistan. Or about honor killings in India. How gendercide happens daily in Asia. Let’s talk about how little girls are stoned after they are raped in the Middle East. Let’s talk about ISIS or Boko Haram are taking child brides. Let’s talk about how rape is used as a weapon of war in the Congo. Or about how Female Genital Mutilation or fistulas ruin a girl’s life. Let’s talk about how in most of the developing world widows have zero rights.

The point? We have it pretty damn good. Yes we need to get paid the same. But as women in America we need to be taking a stand for women who cannot speak out. We need to be taking a stand for little girls who don’t get an education because they are a girl. We need to fight for girls who never get a chance at life because of their gender. We need to stand up for archaic practices that punish the victim of rape but not her rapists. We need to ensure that every woman is allowed the basic rights that we have in America.

It’s not about voting rights or equal pay; it’s about having the basic freedom to decide what happens to your body and your life.

Yes, I want to get paid the same. Yes it is a discrimination and ridiculous and wrong. And yet, I would give up .20 cents on the dollar if a girl in Pakistan could go to school without fear of being shot in the head, if a woman in India was seen as a person and not property, if abuse was not tolerated and then covered by a burka, if a little girl was not smothered at birth for being born a girl.

Thank you for the cry out for women’s rights Mrs. Arquette, yet could you phrase it in a way that does not make it sound like we in America are suffering any forms of injustice equal to the rest of the world because of our gender? Maybe instead of screaming about it, you should take the Charlize Theron approach and refuse to work until you get paid equally. If female A-listers refused to work without equal pay, Hollywood would adapt real quick. Or become like Reece Witherspoon and start making the movies you want. The problem with crying for freedom instead of taking actual steps towards it is that it still makes you dependent on someone else to make the change. So do something tangible instead of making an impassioned cry at the Oscars.

What was your favorite moment from last night?

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© Amanda Lunday