Patricia Arquette hasn’t lost her passion for women’s rights and wage equality since she famously ended her Oscar acceptance speech last year for “Boyhood” with a call for “wage equality and equal rights for women.”
The actress recently executive produced Kamala Lopez’s new documentary, “Equal Means Equal,” which will screen across the country on Friday to coincide with Women’s Equality Day.
“I’ve seen a lot more heightened awareness and talk about the issues,” Arquette told TheWrap, explaining her involvement in a film that outlines a host of women’s issues, including equal pay, rape, child prostitution and pregnancy rights.
TheWrap spoke with Arquette this week about the prospect of an Equal Rights Amendment and wage inequality in Hollywood.
Forbes’ latest list of highest paid movie stars shows that, collectively, the top 10 actors are making over twice as much as the top 10 actresses. Has anything changed since your Oscar speech?
Look, inequality is in 98 percent of all industries, so I’m not surprised it’s still in Hollywood. That’s just part and parcel with what’s happening across the nation.
I’m seeing a lot of films come up for female directors, so that’s good. A lot of studios are actually really making it a priority. I think there’s incremental changes as far as Hollywood goes.
What about the pay gap in the nation at large?
There are more single households than ever before, one in five hungry kids in America, we have single moms working full time and they’re still in poverty with their kids. We also have the highest number of elderly women of any industrialized country who are living in poverty.
What’s not getting through to people who write the checks?
I’ve been talking to people in Congress and trying to advocate for real legislative change because that’s really what we need. People have told me some are resistant because of small-business lobbyists for businesses with 500 employees or less — that’s not all that small, by the way. Is it really going to be politicians pandering to special interest groups or is it going to be the people standing up and making politicians stand up for them?
How do you feel about the prospect of Hillary Clinton becoming the first woman president?
It’s going to be a real nail-biter election. I definitely believe in climate change and that’s one of the most dangerous things we have to address as a whole world together. The concept of electing a climate denier like Donald Trump who said he would tear up the Paris Accords is incredibly dangerous. I don’t actually know how it’s going to go. It has taken something like 178 years for a major party to even have a female on the ticket. We’ve been half of the population the whole time.
On Friday we celebrate Women’s Equality Day. What do think should be at the forefront of everyone’s mind?
Even though it’s Women’s Equality Day, women do not have equality in America. And we really need to pass an Equal Rights Amendment so we can start examining all of these areas of bias and discrimination that impact not just women, but also the families they support.
Is an Equal Rights Amendment in our future any time soon?
About 85 percent to 90 percent of people in the country think the ERA did pass. That’s part of the problem. Also, something like 95 percent of people think women and men should have equal rights. So they do support it. Part of this movie is a re-education campaign in the many ways the judicial system is impacting women and how the lack of adequate rights are negatively impacting women.
A new Pew Research study shows that nearly 60 percent of men think obstacles that made it harder for women to get ahead are largely gone, versus 34 percent of the women surveyed. Is part of achieving progress for women one of perception?
Yes. When they passed the California Equal Pay Act [in 2015], several women told me they got checks from their employers and they didn’t have any idea why. When they went to human resources they said, “Oh, we did an audit and we realized we were giving you discriminatory pay.” A lot of people are getting discriminatory pay and don’t even know it.
In some places, women can get fired for even asking their co-worker how much money they make. It’s such a patchwork of laws — ineffective laws, partial laws and the interpretations of laws. It’s really so complicated. That doesn’t mean we can’t make progress, it means we have to recognize where we have these weak links. The No. 1 thing is effective legislation.
How do we convince people — including men — that change is needed?
I’ve been seeing a lot more movement toward that. I wish change would come faster because it does come 10 times faster when men support women. I would like there to be a growth in that area and I see people have been working on that. All the people who were raised by single moms think about how different life would have been if their mother earned an extra 27 cents on the dollar, or 55 cents on the dollar for Latino women, or 40 cents on the dollar for black women.
“Equal Means Equal” takes a holistic approach, covering an array of issues related to women’s rights. Why the overview?
That was the filmmaker’s decision. Kamala Lopez had about 16 hours of footage. She definitley could have made six movies. But just try selling one of these movies. What we continually got last year was, “We already did something on women” or “We’re not doing anything on women this year.”
Who can wait anymore? At a certain point, you’re not going to get six movies or a TV series. How are you going to educate everyone? These issues do overlap, but yes, it is not like your normal documentary. Her style is much more educational, but a lot of information is packed into it. They all do relate and that’s her point.