Ain’t I a Woman? The Negligence of Patricia Arquette
That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman?– Sojourner Truth, 1851
How fitting that my first post on such a refined gentlemen’s website such as Tha Well is about having a black vagina. And yet, here I am, staring at the words of Sojourner Truth, still twirling this confounding relationship between my womanhood and my color.
The buzz on this blustery mid-western Monday is the residual and highly anticipated backlash of the #OscarsSoWhite programming from the night before. It was as if the Oscars were a Christmas Tree, adorned with garland freshly strung with racism and privilege. Though there is much to cover, I found Patricia Arquette’s speech after her win to be nothing short of wonderful (hell, she has 12 years to prep for it…). It wasn’t until I fired up the Twitter machine that I saw her comments backstage be telling of her train of thought:
“It’s time for women. Equal means equal. The truth is the older women get, the less money they make. The highest percentage of children living in poverty are in female-headed households. It’s inexcusable that we go around the world and we talk about equal rights for women in other countries and we don’t,” she said. “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.”
Say what now?
Contrary to Eliana Dockterman and any other woman whose raging and fanatic feminism overshadows their ability to logically process or empathise with women of color, Arquette’s statement was woefully negligent on multiple levels.
1. Assumptive: Her backstage bravado makes the assumption that gays and blacks feel pretty comfortable in society, that we have come to a place where we feel equal to our white, straight counterparts. That’s awesome that she thinks so, but has she talked to a person of color lately…even in Hollywood? The fact that Alfre Woodard has established a pre-Oscar celebration for black women should be more than evident that though our feet are firmly planted in what is ours, we aren’t standing on the same ground.
2. Divisive: Ms. Arquette, who ironically plays a single mother in the movie she won an Oscar for, proverbially points a finger at others saying, “They get this! They got that! When is it MY turn?” I mean, are we at the DMV, taking numbers and waiting for turns for equality? Are we sitting in the lobby of narcissism, only to look around and say, “Why does she get to go first, but I don’t!?” Finger pointing from the vantage point of a white woman to any woman, with or without American citizenship, is divisive. One can not say “Equal rights for women!…except for you over there, because I haven’t gotten mine first.” Her very ability to articulate such a thought illuminates that her rights have been more than equal in comparison to the women she admonishes American helping.
3. Dismissive: Bottom line, “equal means equal” is a load of s#%* and most of us know it. No one wants to really live in a world in which we are all treated equally. If that were so, we all would have worn Givency last night, we all would have won an Oscar, and the entire world would care about each and every one of our socio-political grandstandings until the orchestra cuts us off.
That is not the case.
Instead, we want to be treated fairly. We want what is owed based upon merit, effort, and outcome.
See, white feminist have long shunned black women from becoming a part of their movement. We, those with black skin and black vaginas, held them back from being equal with their fathers, brothers, and husbands, (nevermind that the agenda was the same). If our brown was to be acknowledged at the same time that their vagina was to be as well, then what benefit was that to them? None. There was no benefit to being equal.
Modern feminist would like to quickly dismiss this history, pointing to the Civil Rights movement and gender neutrality as the masthead for systemic change in America. That’s great and all, but where is Kanye to come and set them straight about the facts? It’s clear that white women (obviously not all, but some…with a microphone…winning Oscars…) do not understand the complex history of “equality for women in America, maybe poor ones, mostly white ones” vs “equality for women.”
Patricia Arquette was negligent in her off-stage comments. Though I am sure her intent wasn’t malicious, it falsely misrepresented the state of the gay community and women of color to an obnoxiously wide audience. This is the inherent problem with her statement, and ultimately of other women like her, whom fraught with action, diminish those around them.
That isn’t equality.