Artists across the spectrum of the movie industry decided to make their moments in the spotlight mean something. They decided to speak out on issues of our day.
There are definitely some who will say this is silly, artists are more puppets than notable thinkers: they reflect us, but cannot lead the way. And some will say that their pulpit exists for entertainment and inspiration purposes alone. They cannot guide us to a better future because their role is amusement.
But to be an artist is to be an observer of humanity, to monitor the culture, to closely follow the expression in a face, to imitate the signifying and characteristic gesture.
For twelve years, Patricia Arquette played a mother in the film, Boyhood, a bit shy of the eighteen plus years of caregiving for a child, but very close to an entire childhood. So, last night she used her three minute platform to say this: “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 to fight for equal rights for women in America.”
Reactions were immediate, with Meryl Streep up in her seat, cheering, while women around the country began posting, and reposting these moments. Some negative commentary on the comments swiftly emerged: what does she know? and how dare she divide women…and how white she is, how incredibly ignorant she is of women of color, of the struggles of others who have been excluded…
Just, whoa. What Arquette should have articulated is a far more simplistic concept than the arguments spinning now, being fueled by her backstage comments. What she could have said is simply that women take on the problems and issues of their day while ignoring their own inequality as women and mothers. Her words are needed ones for all women. We are used to hearing the terms “equal wages” and “equal rights,” but it is about more than these phrases: it is about the society and workplace restructuring to incorporate the human needs of half the population, the ones that create citizens and taxpayers. It is about living up to our rhetoric: families come first. Stronger supports for family work and life would bring greater equality.
Others hear “wage equality,” and “equal rights,” and envision the worst excesses of a command and control economic system. Still others know the reality of a system that forgot that over half the labor force bears children. Our nation has not figured this out except for the brief interlude of the Second World War when we had child care for the Rosies at work, at work for their country’s war effort.
Arquette muddled her own message, yet, everyday, mothers and fathers raise those we need to have a future. This patriotic work, this family work, requires a rewrite of the script where caregivers, mothers and fathers – are on their own. If future good citizens matter to us, then we need to wake up to the necessary and important human work, the “production” of real people, that creates us all.