Thanks to Twitter and Facebook and a world of blogs like this one where people can spout out whatever opinion they have of anyone at any given moment, you probably already heard a bit about the “controversial speech” given by Patricia Arquette at the Academy Awards.
In large part, her speech was inspiring and met with applause and acceptance. Here’s the transcript of her speech:
“Okay, Jesus. Thank you to the Academy, to my beautiful, powerful nominees. To IFC, Jonathan Sehring, John Sloss, Cathleen Sutherland, Molly Madden, David DeCamillo, our whole cast and our crew. My Boyhood family, who I love and admire. Our brilliant director Richard Linklater. The impeccable Ethan Hawke. My lovelies, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater. Thomas and Paul, thank you for giving me my beautiful children. Enzo and Harlow, you’re the deepest people that I know.
My friends who all work so hard to make this world a better place. To my parents, Rosanna, Richmond, Alexis and David. To my favorite painter in the world, Eric White, for the inspiration of living with a genius. To my heroes, volunteers and experts who have helped me bring ecological sanitation to the developing world with GiveLove.org.
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.”
She didn’t stop there though, and generally, this is where all the “social justice advocates” flipped the hell out:
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 that are applied that really do affect women. And 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. [emphasis added]
Many in the blogosphere and purported advocates jumped on the bandwagon to “call out” Patricia Arquette for her comments, noting that by stating that it was time for people of color to join women implied two things: (1) that people of color were not already part of the struggle for women’s equality; and (2) that somehow women of color will have to choose between their gender and their race. The same was applied to her comment for the gays to join the women’s equality cause with a similar response. Many noted that gays and people of color have already actively participated in the women’s equality movement and are presently actively participating in it. But here’s where I challenge you, dear reader. This weekend, go to the nearest “gay bar” and start picking out random strangers, particularly gay men. After you pick out about 10 or so, go up to each of them and ask them this question, “Have you ever been to a rally in support of equal rights for women?” My bet is you won’t find any, but certainly it will be the minority.
You see, we, as social justice advocates, assumed that Patricia Arquette was talking about us. We added that to her words, she did not. She didn’t play Kathy Griffin and screech, “Where my gays at?” She DID NOT say “…and all the gay activists, and all the people of color activists that we’ve all fought for to fight for us now.” She made a call to all people and her words included women, men, gay people and people of color. In the end though, we are activists, and as activists we have an ego problem. We’re so vain, we probably think her words were about us.
As to choosing between your race, sexual orientation and gender, I don’t believe for a moment an ultimatum to choose was given. You see, all of those things are inherently part of us. We can no sooner choose between breathing or eating. Without any one of the things that make the whole of us, we are no longer ourselves. The key to intersectionality is recognizing that all of those things make up our whole selves and none of those things are mutually exclusive of the other. Until then, we are doomed to repeat the cycle of intolerance against which we claim to be working.