You may have been digging Patricia Arquette as an actress for many moons, but if you’ve been paying attention the past couple of years, she’s also been doing an outstanding job of speaking out about women’s issues. She used her Best Actress Academy Award win as a platform to talk about equal pay, and she’s been pretty vocal on how she feels about the way actresses are treated in her industry, and invasions of privacy. Speaking with Fortune, Arquette talked about what drove her to become an activist, and the baloney (that’s bologna to you non-rhymers) we’re feeding our daughters.
On her continued push for wage equality:
”..there have been incredible activists working on women’s issues for decades, and I thought what I could do was use my moment to call attention to that work, to help in any way I could. I have been an activist in other areas, but not in this way. But I don’t want [the wage gap to exist] for my daughter or anyone’s daughter. If I can help change it that will be the most important thing I do, other than raise my kids.
The inequality affects everything. It’s a web. We need to understand how destabilizing it is. We have to be more aware of how this issue affects women across the board. The pay gap happens in 98% of occupations, and it touches on every aspect of our lives. I just can’t see how we can have a healthy middle class without equal pay.
There is so much subconscious bias. Women have to pay more for health insurance, and we see that black women have higher rates of death from breast cancer because they don’t get care. I hear from teachers all the time that children come to school hungry on Mondays as they didn’t eat enough over the weekend. We have single mothers who aren’t earning a fair wage. And 40% of African American children are living below the poverty line. If you care about kids, hunger, or sexual abuse, if you care about any of these things, they are all related to economic inequality.”
And, the fairy tale we all tell our daughters:
“We are selling our daughters this phony-baloney story that they can go to college and be anything they want to be, but we don’t tell them they are not going to get paid as much as a man who does the same. They can get degrees, but will spend a longer time paying back student loans because they’ll earn less than men.”
That quote in particular resonated with me. I’m always trying to make sure my own kids have confidence and grow up believing they have the ability to achieve anything — to be anything — they want. Like most parents of younger children, I try to focus on the positive, so I haven’t really discussed pay disparity, or that if my middle daughter really does become a singer someday, she’ll be judged by, and her appearance will be discussed as much as her voice, in a way that’s completely different from a male counterpart. Whether it’s denial in the back of my head, or I just hope things are different before the kids head out into the work force, I need to pull my own head out of the sand.
Arquette detailed some of her personal experiences, and how she’s handled the sexism:
“We live in a very image- and age-focused culture. We are teaching our daughters that all that matters is that they are this sexual ideal. A really strong thing for women in Hollywood is to hold on to the ingénue role as long as possible. But I wanted to get out of that gig as soon as I could. I pushed the boundaries as much as I could along the way. I remember a director telling my agent that it would be great if I could lose 10 pounds as long as my boobs didn’t get smaller. I didn’t want to lose 10 pounds and I didn’t. There were times I turned down movies when I needed work financially, when I had a newborn, because the roles were inappropriate, or the director was inappropriate or unethical. That is another reason I feel the way I do about gender pay equality. I grew up in a time when women felt they couldn’t make those choices, when women couldn’t leave bad marriages and battered women stayed with their abusers because they couldn’t afford to do it alone.”
What Arquette is pushing for, and believes will help make a difference:
“I think it is important for the [Equal Rights Amendment] to become law, which many Americans think is already the case. That would cause a shift. I think it’s important for corporations to do audits of their employee pay. They may think they are paying people equally but once they look at it they may find they are not. We have to encourage women, and men and women of color, to ask to be paid more. And we can all use our platforms, we all have them, to express our views. We can all talk to our friends and colleagues, and can use social media.”
On Presidential candidates’ attitudes toward equality and women’s issues:
“During the CNN debate I tweeted to remind them that more than half of the population is female. We have people running for president who don’t believe in abortion even if a woman’s life is in danger. They will put a fetus ahead of the life of a woman, of their wife or daughter. Politicians are afraid to dictate to business to pay women as well as men. But if we want a healthy economy we have to treat everyone—women, men and women of color, transgender and gay people—everyone, equally.”
Arquette’s approach as a woman and mother to a young daughter — instead of wholly focusing on her celebrity — is thoughtful and makes her more relatable than a lot of celebrities who speak out. While she shares stories about her particular industry, the way the actress frames them makes it clear she’s thinking about the generations that will follow, as well as the pioneers who came before her.
(via/read more at Fortune)