Last night’s Oscars ceremony was, arguably, the most politically charged evening in years of Academy Awards. Among its galvanizing moments was Patricia Arquette’s acceptance speech, which the actress used to draw attention to the gender pay gap in the US.
Arquette, who was awarded the best supporting actress Oscar for her role in Boyhood, called upon Americans to fight for women’s rights:
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.
Arquette’s speech went over like gangbusters on social media (though some found her plea backstage for ”all the gay people and people of color we’ve all fought for to fight for us now” somewhat divisive):
According to Twitter, it garnered the third most tweets-per-minute of the evening, after Lady Gaga’s performance of The Sound of Music and Birdman winning best picture.
And, perhaps most compellingly, it got this animated reaction from the actress Meryl Streep.
Of course, both Streep and the singer and actress Jennifer Lopez (seated next to her) make considerably more than the average American, male or female. Nationwide, full-time working women make 77% of what their male equivalents earn, according to the White House (though some have challenged the basis of that calculation).
That inequality extends to Hollywood, where female leads routinely make less than male leads—even massive stars like Jennifer Lawrence, as exposed in emails released after Sony was hacked. And not only is the pay worse for women on screen, but the selection of roles is too.
A recent study by San Diego State University revealed that women made up only 12% of protagonists in the top-grossing movies last year. To make matters worse, the trend is going in the wrong direction. In 2013, it was 15%.
Sexist attitudes and the gender disparity were on full display yesterday at the Academy Awards ceremony itself: Only 25 of the 127 nominees were women. And of course, the pre-show parade on the red carpet is an exercise in cringeworthy sexism.