You Don’t Get To Tell Other People What Their Lives Are About

Amanda, on Patricia Arquette: 

Arquette tried to use her win for Best Supporting Actress as an opportunity to speak out for wage equality, and, to be fair, her actual speech on the podiumwasn’t the worst thing ever. “To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights,” she said. “It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.” A bit jumbled and shallow—ninth-grade debate club debut-ish—but her heart seemed to be in the right place. At least, Meryl Streep and J-Lo thought so.

But when Arquette was asked to elaborate backstage, she gave a lengthy answer that included this statement: “And 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.”


I’m generally a big fan of celebrities using their platforms to get out the message about feminism, even though they often do so by offering a defanged version sculpted to minimize backlash. But Arquette’s political grandstanding played into every ugly stereotype about “feminism” being about little more than some privileged white women trying to become more privileged.

Yeah. I’m not wild about the dogpiling onto Arquette from the left, like let’s not expect perfection in every feminist sentiment or we’ll never hear anybody speaking up at all, but that was the point at which I said oh honey, no.

You don’t get to tell all the men that love women, and all the gay people, and all the people of color, what they owe you.

You don’t get to act like somebody else should just fall in line now, because it’s your turn.

You don’t decide when anybody else’s turn is.

I wish you did, sometimes. I would like to tell all of you what is important to you. I would like to make you all feel righteously guilty for not caring about the same things I do, in the same proportions, at the same times. I would like to MAKE you all get on board with my every motivation. I can’t do that. The only thing I can do, the only thing anybody has the right to do, is tell you what’s important to me. I can hope you come to care about it but I can’t knit it into your blood and bones. I can’t stand up for it for you.

Words are not imperatives, and we only all speak for ourselves.

I have zero problem with Arquette speaking for herself. It’s a valid statement and was one of a very few to address the world as it is even from inside her very wealthy, successful bubble. I appreciated it, as a fellow white chick who likes getting paid like a white dude would get paid.

I have a HUGE problem with her treating solidarity like it’s some kind of vending machine. “I put a dollar in for your cause, so I should get a candy bar for mine.” Like decency is a loan that needs paying back with interest. Like you do what you do in order to get something for it, and not for the sake of your immortal soul. It is not TIME for anyone to do anything for you that you’ve done for them. It’s just time for you to do what you need to do, which is all the time anyway.


2 thoughts on “You Don’t Get To Tell Other People What Their Lives Are About

  1. I completely agree with your points on this. Perhaps it is (only?) because I’m older, but I see PA’s statements and see a younger person asking for equality and fairness. Too bad she brought up the “quid pro quo” aspect and expected things to act like a “vending machine” (nice one there).
    Whether with a coworker, your spouse, a child, a food server — treat everyone with respect and fairness. When they recognize it, other people are wonderful; there is your quid pro quo. If they are too burdened to recognize it, be grateful that you are not likewise blinded.

  2. It’s even more though; she disappeared Women of Color and Lesbians from the equation of “us”. “Us” — who are apparently all white and straight.

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