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When Patricia Arquette accepted the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting role at this year’s ceremony, Hollywood’s finest, like Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez reacted with roaring applause when she mentioned gender inequality.

“It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America,” she said.


Arquette was praised for using her platform to expose injustices concerning women’s rights. However, the thought-provoking moment was short-lived when critics found her comments, in the press room, to be racist.

“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,” she said.

The highly talked about moment sparked a profound dialogue between HelloBeautiful’s Editorial Director, Leigh Davenport and Journalist and Emerging Voice Fellow at Demos, Donovan Ramsey via e-mail.

Donovan X. Ramsey wrote:

Patricia Arquette went all Ms. Ann after she won her Oscar and I have an opinion.

Leigh Davenport replied:

Hi Donovan,

Thanks for sending, I’d have to say here that I really think Patricia Arquette is being unfairly interpreted. Most Black feminist scholars would agree that at the intersection of race and gender, gender often takes a secondary seat to race politics  — I think the discourse within the Black feminist community often addresses the lack of support from Black men when it comes to gender issues, and that in the matrix of domination, the plight of the woman falls last almost always, even amongst queer, LGBT and other ethnic communities.

In my comprehension of her comments, she means to say that the cause for Women’s Rights in India and Saudi Arabia should garner the same amount of attention as Gay Rights, Black Lives Matter etc. Women often fight on the front lines of many other civil rights issues but when it comes time to support feminist issues, too often there is an overwhelming absence of men, whether gay or straight and a lack of support from other disenfranchised communities.

I don’t know, I have a strong reaction that she’s being maligned for being White and saying that, when the truth of the matter is that she is absolutely correct and Black feminist have the exact same discussions all the time. Case and point the coverage and outrage over Renisha McBride vs Trayvon, Mike Brown, etc… so many feminist scholars calling out the difference in coverage and the outrage level about the harm of Black female bodies comparatively to male…

Read me?

Donovan X. Ramsey replied:


The figure that she quoted on stage was the average wage earned by women, a wage much higher than that earned by black and Latino women. That alone narrows her message to the white women. Now, I’d leave that alone as just a poorly chosen stat if she didn’t then go backstage and double down with more white woman-centered language.

And your analysis would be spot on if Arquette would have said, “gay men and men of color need to join women in fighting for pay equity.” Unfortunately, that’s not what she said. Instead, she –by fault of omission or commission– advanced the kind of narrow feminism that white women have since forever. She decided to talk about people of color and gays joining in a fight 1) many have been in and that 2) some don’t have the option to join because they wear two or three of those identities.Now, maybe Arquette is one of those white women who gets it and just happened to poorly articulate her point in her speech (then again backstage.)

But maybe that doesn’t matter because she said what she said, and what she said was some bulls**t. That said, I think it’s worthy debate. I’d love to see the piece on HB — maybe even with your analysis in there ;)


Leigh Davenport replied:

My question is we’re just assuming malintent just because she is white. If the EXACT same comments were made by Shonda Rhimes or Viola Davis, do you read it differently? And, if so, is it fair to assume racial bias and exclusionary intent purely because Arquette is white. I can imagine a Black woman saying the exact same comments, poorly articulated or otherwise. The very valid point that raised about poverty, (which definitely does not code read as ‘white’) and about children and aging women seem perfectly worthy of unfettered support.

I wish Blacks and other people of color would make women’s issues a priority too… but then I am often all tied up about being Black first — and so — I think today, I prefer to be less concerned about being Black and more concerned about being female, in that way, Patricia Arquette can rock out with her cock out. I think we’re in a very dangerous time of ridiculing people’s sometimes innocent poor semantic or diction choices to the detriment of context and nuanced discussion.

It’s like a giant game of internet “Gotcha!” you messed up! Instead of, word, I hear you, and here’s some other points that can help further this very important conversation that you just brought up instead of “you’re a racist white chick” and now we’re not going to talk about women’s inequality because Patricia Arquette is white and racist, and now I still don’t make enough money as my male counterpart and 10 years from now that all ends up being not very productive. Perhaps the next wave of solidarity comes from people of color and women of color not taking the bait. Whether she was excluding women of color (which I truly don’t think she was) or not, I’m including myself as one of the women she was talking about so let’s have that dialogue.

Are we not today asking Black women to put their race above their gender by bashing Arquette? Is that not counter productive to the larger feminist cause?

Donovan X. Ramsey replied:

Yes, the “gotcha” game is wack. It doesn’t advance causes or really constitute substantive analysis, and it goes on forever as long as human beings are imperfect. There’s a difference, though, between trying to catch someone slipping and letting them know when their slip is showing.

Leigh Davenport replied: 

Well, let’s make sure we’re doing the latter.


Arquette clarified her statements on twitter:

What say you readers? Was Patricia Arquette’s comments racists or was she spot on?









(Donovan Ramsey & Leigh Davenport)


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He Said/She Said Debate: Why Patricia Arquette Is Being Unfairly Attacked For Her Feminist Comments  was originally published on