The privilege problem

At first I cheered. There was Patricia Arquette at the podium accepting her Best Supporting Actress statue for Boyhood, when she dropped a truth bomb about gender and the wage gap:

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

Meryl cheered. J. Lo cheered. I cheered from my couch.

Never mind that Patricia Arquette (and Meryl and J. Lo, too, obviously) makes more money than I ever will. And never mind (I mean, not really) that a privileged white woman calling for equal pay misses a big point, because women of color typically earn less than their white counterparts. And never mind (again, not really) that comment singling out mothers. I was willing to forgive her for not including the whole of womanhood in a moment of excitement.

Until, that is, Arquette stuck a designer shoe-clad foot in her lipsticked mouth.

“It's time for … all the gay people and all the people of color that we've fought for to fight for us now,” Arquette told reporters after.

Oh. No.

Championing equal rights for a particular group does not mean calling out other groups of historically oppressed people. And it definitely does not mean excluding them.

Arquette's comments didn't just lack deeper thinking, they lacked sensitivity, empathy and insight. They were clueless. They were offensively exclusionary.

Clearly the actress, who has since tried to clarify her remarks, didn't consider how her comment erased entire communities. That's the pervasive nature of privilege: Those who hold even a little (hello, Sean Penn) are often not aware of how deeply it informs everything they do and say.

What a shame that Arquette's poorly chosen words detracted from a bigger, more important message.