I knew the Oscars were going to be extra white this year, so there’s a part of me that suspected it would be a bad idea to watch. But as an avid movie buff and independent filmmaker myself, skipping the Academy Awards would have felt like being asked to skip my prom.
I couldn’t keep away.
For the most part, the show was what you’d expect. The usual suspects presenting awards while covered in bronzer. Meryl Streep rolled through like a boss to wave and listen to her name get mentioned in every other category. A few obligatory shots of Sidney Poitier and Harry Belefonte flashed on the screen to remind us that black people do win awards — every 50 years or so. And Neal Patrick Harris did his best to make us laugh through the boredom.
So when Patricia Arquette won the best supporting actress category for her work in Boyhood, having seen the movie and being a fan of her work, I was pleased and even clapped a little as she walked towards the stage.
At first, I thought she’d do the charming, flustered shtick she usually does at these events; all sweet and “oh my goodness, I’m so humbled by this honor” as the audience chuckles at her undeniable likability. But the Patricia who took the stage last night was different. She had on stern librarian glasses and a stunningly fierce black and white pantsuit straight from a scene in The Devil Wears Prada. Gone was the girlish giggle. Instead, she looked like a warrior woman on a mission, and within seconds, it became clear what that was.
Arquette first graciously thanked her fellow nominees, the cast and crew of Boyhood and her loved ones. Then, while looking down at her written speech, she took a breath and boldly read a political statement about the need for equality — specifically women’s equality — as Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lopez and a host of other A-listers cheered her on.
The crowd showed their appreciation when she said the following:
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!
It was undoubtedly a slightly more spicy moment in what, ’til that point, had been an otherwise vanilla show.
But then … she had to go and ruin it.
Apparently, Arquette was so emboldened by the applause she received during her first speech she decided to elaborate on her sentiments in the Oscars press room. That’s when any allegiance I felt towards her quickly went down the drain.
She told the press
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. One of those superior court justices said two years ago in a law speech at a university that we don’t have equal rights for women in America, and we don’t because when they wrote Constitution, they didn’t intend it for women. So the truth is even though we sort of feel like we have equal rights in America, right under the surface there are huge issues at play that really do affect women. 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!
Wait … madam … what?
My first reaction was “Did this fool just use her Oscar win to tell gays and black people they now owe white women assistance?“
That line of thinking is what I like to call gristle logic, a declaration so smug and historically inaccurate that no matter how much I chew on it, I just can’t swallow it.
And before you say “But, Blue, she said women not just white women,” let me be blunt: If you say black people need to stand up for you – that means you are asking every person in the room who is both black and a woman to choose her gender over her race in order to suit your agenda. It’s a very subtle form of feminist segregation that I’ve heard about for a few years now. And it’s complete b.s.
Who does she think nursed and looked after all of those white children during the slave era? Did she somehow miss the last 400 years of race relations? Does she not notice who the nannies are when she takes her kids to the park? Society has made it all too clear that not all women are created equal. So to ask the women who are below you on the food chain to once again lift you up is fifty shades of “You got some nerve.”
This is nothing new.
Black feminists all over the world have written horror stories about how, when dealing with white feminists, they are expected to compartmentalize their blackness and put it away — while fighting on behalf of their womanhood. That ridiculous (and ironically misogynistic) expectation from their white feminist counterparts amounts to what feels like friendly fire; you’re basically being discriminated against by the very person standing next to you in the fight for equality.
Despite the fact that my beliefs could arguably make me one, I refuse to call myself a feminist.
I say this because I am not tactful enough to navigate the social landmine that is modern day feminism. I am the kind of woman who wants to be able to protest Ferguson, write thoughtful op-eds and twerk to Beyonce’s 7-11 video without anyone feeling that a title (like feminist) gives them the right to critique my free will and overall right to give no damns.
As a result of my resistance to formally joining this group, I have personally never experienced the racial tensions that exist within it.
But last night, I suddenly understood the plight of the black feminist in relation to her white sisters. Here is a woman being recognized with the highest honor in her craft, standing up at an Awards ceremony where most people of color in the room were snubbed (for their equally superlative achievements) — and she’s asking them to put aside their very real plight, in order to pick up hers.
How does she not realize the irony of asking black people for help while she stands inside the same winner’s circle they have been systemically kept out of? It’s smug, spoiled and incredibly privileged. I wish some of the the well-educated, socially intelligent white women of the world would pull their sister Patricia aside and tell her to stop speaking on their behalf.
Cause she’s making y’all look bad and needs to have a seat way in the back row.
The publications lauding her speech as “badass” and applauding her amazing stance for equality need to have a seat back there as well.
All in all, the Academy Awards were as racist as we’d all feared.
Patricia Arquette wants the minorities to give her reparations; one of the few people of color who made it to the podium seemed drunk (side-eye to Terrence Howard); and Sean Penn ended the night with an incredibly racist green card joke when a Mexican filmmaker won for best picture.
So now — I owe a sincere apology to every person who advised me to skip yesterday’s broadcast, because I legitimately went to bed annoyed and exhausted.
And no — having Common and John Legend sing yet another stunningly beautiful rendition of Glory wasn’t enough to make up for any of this.
If just listening to a song from Selma was enough to make the whole audience burst into ugly tears — why the hell didn’t it get nominated for more awards?
Follow Blue Telusma on Twitter: @bluecentric