February 23 2015
by Ashe Schow
And the “check your privilege” award goes to ... Patricia Arquette.
Arquette, whose net worth is $24 million, claimed Sunday night that women still don’t have equal rights in the U.S.
“To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights,” Arquette said while accepting the Best Supporting Actress award at the Oscars. “It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”
So, is Arquette's implication that no one has previously fought for women's rights? Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton may have something to say about that.
Perhaps Arquette was referring exclusively to women in liberal Hollywood, who are paid less than their male counterparts and hold fewer leading roles.
Because if she was referring to all American women, she has some research to do.
What rights don’t American women have? We can vote, have a career, obtain an education, own property, run for and hold political office — what is it that women can’t do, exactly?
And if Arquette is basing her claim on the gender wage gap, which shows that the average of all working women is less than the average of all working men (without controlling for occupation, education, experience or hours worked), then she’s perpetuating a false talking point.
The reason women on average earn less than men is not due to discrimination or a lack of equal rights, but because of the choices women make in what careers they take, what hours they work or whether they leave the workforce for children, among other things.
Arquette seems to be implying there is some kind of law that says women can — and should — make less than men, despite multiple actual laws that say the opposite. The Equal Pay Act of 1963, for example, makes sex-based wage discrimination illegal. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 also prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.
Carrie Lukas, managing director for the conservative Independent Women’s Forum, released a statement refuting Arquette’s assumption that women do not have equal rights in America.
“Women can write their own story by carefully considering their options and the long-term impact of the choices they make about education, careers, specialties and the time they take out of the workplace,” Lukas said. "Women may never catch up to men on average earnings — but if those difference[s] in pay are the result of purposeful choices that women are making based on their priorities, than that doesn't mean we all can't have our own happy ending."
Supporters of Arquette’s statement could say that she is just using her platform to advocate for those less fortunate than she. But telling people they don’t have equal rights when they do doesn’t help anyone — it in fact hurts the conversation.
If Arquette truly believes there is a gender wage gap, perhaps she should look into the pay disparities among the politicians she supports. In 2008, Arquette donated the maximum to Barack Obama, who was running against Hillary Clinton at the time (way to stand up for women, Arquette!). Obama’s White House pays women on average less than men.
Obama’s spokespeople point out that the gap is due to what jobs women hold in the White House — namely lower-paying junior jobs. So when it comes to their own pay gap, the White House admits that it is not due to discrimination but other factors — the same reason the wage gap exists for the population at large.
But maybe Arquette learned her lesson in 2008 and will support Hillary Clinton this time around. Well, it turns out Clinton had an even worse pay gap during her years as a senator than the Obama White House does now.
Women on average earned 72 cents for every dollar a man earned in Sen. Clinton’s office — a larger pay gap than the current claim of 77 cents or 78 cents.
Clinton has tried to position herself as someone who cares about equal pay. The Washington Free Beacon’s Brent Scher noted a tweet from Clinton in 2014 claiming that “20 years ago, women made 72 cents on the dollar to men. Today it’s still just 77 cents. More work to do.” Seeing as how Clinton paid her female staffers 72 cents to the dollar that she paid men, she must still be living in the 90s (when her husband Bill was president, remember).
The point here is that someone like Obama or Clinton can’t claim that women aren’t equal because of the wage gap and then have a similar or worse wage gap in their own offices. Because when they explain away their own wage gap, they explain away the national wage gap.
Meanwhile, celebrities like Arquette parrot the talking points that women somehow have fewer rights than men because of that supposed wage gap, and the cycle of victimization continues.