“Equal Rights for Women!” : Hey Patricia! Am I included in this?

This post is in conversation with, Why We Need to Talk About Diversity Differently by Bad Feminist author, Roxane Gay. Using the lack of Diversity in this year’s /every year’s Oscars as her entry point, Gay addresses why race, gender, sexuality, class, disability… any oppression should not be fought in isolation. She also responds to the political nature of multiple speeches during the awards, including one given by Particia Arquette after winning Best Actress for her work in Boyhood. Though I refused to watch The Oscars, for the same reasons why I didn’t last year, I was privy to the content of Arquette’s political speech almost immediately after it was shared. Everyone’s favorite, Meryl Streep, was most enthused, and social media was roaring with praise for Arquette’s speech– particularly when she said:

“It’s time to have wage equality once and for all. Equal rights for women in the United States of America.”

Okaayyy, I thought. This is absolutely important. But, am I, as a woman of color, included? I know some of my friends, are thinking, Of course, you are!!!!!!!! But, no.really. Am I?

In my experience as a college feminist and a Master of Women and Gender Studies (yes, I went there), when some people discuss women’s rights, they’re not always discussing my rights as a woman of color. Race is one problem, while women’s rights is another. But this doesn’t work for me. When people look at me, when I experience, the world, I experience it as a Black woman — not one or the other. My blackness and my womanness, as well as my middle-classness and straightness, are always working together like one machine. Critical Race Theorists, Kimberle Crenshaw, calls this intersectionality. One’s multiple identities don’t get compartmentalized, but are always working for and against them simultaneously.  As Roxane Gay points out in her article:

“Women of color, for example, don’t go to work one day as women and the next day as people of color, leaving their gender at home in a cabinet. We carry all aspects of our identity with us at all times. When we talk about diversity and equality, we need to consider the whole of a person and how the whole of a person is affected by the inequalities of this world.”

When Arquette brought light to the important issues of wage equality and equal rights for women, was she doing this in solidarity with fellow Oscar winners, Common and John Legend, who’s speeches mentioned the many fights going on around the world, including the outrageous numbers of incarcerated Black men? Or, was she saying, “We’ve fought for your rights, but now it’s time for women?!”

After her acceptance speech, she did extrapolate on what she meant. She said, “The truth is even though we sort of feel like we have equal rights in America, there are huge issues that are at play that really do affect women. It’s time for all… the gay people and people of color that we’ve all fought for, to fight for us now.

One can interpret this in many ways, I guess, but what I hear/read is that white women have supported the efforts of gay people (there are women who are gay, no?) and people of color (ain’t I a woman?), and, now, it’s time to turn our attention to women (but, for reals, am I included?).

Maybe wage equality hasn’t currently been at the forefront of the fight for communities of color, because people of color are currently fighting for life. And maybe the LGBTQ community (which includes P.O.C’s) hasn’t put wage equality at the forefront, because many are also fighting for… well, life. Now, don’t get me wrong, my bank account and my student loans are screaming at the top of their lungs for wage equality (as well as respectful wages for educators), just as I’m fighting for the many rights and privileges my community still doesn’t have. The multiple rights I’m fighting for, for communities of color (i.e. fair education, safety, job opportunities, visibility justice etc…) just can’t be isolated, because they’re always working together. I can’t fight for women’s rights on Monday, the rights for people of color on Tuesday, and the rights for the LGBTQ community on the weekends. And quite frankly, they’re all one fight. I hope Patricia Arquette and other allies who are supporting our struggles can get down with that. Because, we know that when archaic oppressions like wage equality is settled (I can’t believe this still hasn’t been dealt with- where’s Hilary?), white women will be the first to benefit from it. #RealTalk #NoShade #HistorysaysSo #RememberAffirmativeAction?

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