Patricia Arquette’s feminist urging during her Oscars acceptance speech was met with much controversy, due to the lack of intersectionality regarded in her viewpoint. This, infuriating many, has allowed the root cause of her speech to become wholly undermined by the way in which she implicitly showed that her perspective as a white woman differs from that of persons of color and LGBT citizens. However, the backlash from socially conscious groups has overwhelmed the purpose of her argument, and this backlash has produced consequences far outweighing the obvious. Focusing on the flaws of her statement has demonstrated to society – particularly those who are not regularly conscious of social issues – that joining the conversation can produce dire consequences, even with the best of intentions. It has demonstrated that speaking out on behalf of the oppressed is best left to those who can do so without error, that the public debate is only available in its most flawless form.
It goes without saying that the point she is making is one that resonates across women of all races, ethnicities, and sexual orientations. Despite the callous and misinformed verbiage she used, she still managed to stand before the world with shaking hands and a page of notes in order to make clear the fact that this issue resounds across all variations among the world’s 51%.
She clearly should not have argued in a manner that assumes that all persons of color and of LGBT lifestyles reside in a separate reality, each holding separate set of priority causes. Yet it must also be said that humans are inherently flawed; no search for social justice is or ever will be immaculate. Many social causes have overlapped once another; internal frictions have occurred throughout history as individuals strive to be categorized for the purposes of strength and influence, yet not pigeonholed into the confines of prejudice and stereotyping. This was the case during the initial passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, when the original language was modified to omit women as a protected class and thus, women were removed from the proposed amendment and denied their right to vote. To say that Patricia Arquette’s lack of intersectionality is a novelty in social justice speech is purely an admission of ignorance. The historically-based friction between races and sexes and their (oven overlapping) causes ought not to be undermined by that which has been their Achilles heel since the debate for civil rights first came about. In this century, we must forgive the flaws in our debaters for the sake of moving forward. We must allow the stage to remain open so that publicity and momentum can be gained at every opportunity; eventually, it is my hope that intersectionality is less an issue of the present and more a relic of past divisions. Intersectionality must be acknowledged, but it must also not outweigh the reason by which we are all still here discussing the issue at large.
It is inarguable to say, by and large, that women face an onslaught of public criticism in consequence of speaking out in defense of social and economic equality. When bold enough to speak their individual truth, women overwhelmingly face criticism on a level that is both more widespread and more profound than men. It is deeply unfortunate that this incident is no different, despite the public criticism being prompted by a group other than the conservative right. Perhaps this is what is the most disillusioning about the public’s response to her words; we allow the entirety of her argument to be delegitimized by the perspective from which she said it, thus allowing the point to be undeservedly repudiated.
It is incredibly self-defeating for progressives to react with such glaring criticism, as though Patricia Arquette were a political analyst rather than an actress. The implications of her verbal misdemeanor are far-reaching; they infer that one must take a painstaking approach to engaging in political participation in order for their thoughts to even be acceptable in the mainstage of public debate at all.
The words she used were generalizing and elementary, but it must also be noted that she made these statements during the high of one of the most defining moments of her career and life. This is exactly why we ought not denigrate her for her passionate, albeit imprecise, urging. Instead we must recognize the magnitude of her action in itself, of her using one of the most defining moments of her career – an acceptance speech on which her persona and reputation will be based for years to come – to bring to light an issue which is owed a more public forum. By forcing attention onto the issue of women’s social and economic injustices, she has done us all a favor, regardless of those whose causes she misconstrued. It is commendable that she lent one of the most profound 2-minute segments of her life to shove this cause to the forefront of all of our minds, and with the world watching, it is deserving of no response other than the same merciful compassion which we demand from the world at large.