Celebrity advocacy is not a new concept, and it’s one that’s been debated consistently. Who really benefits from it? Their personal brand? Are they really changing policies? When we talk about actress Patricia Arquette, there’s really no question in regards to her role in activism. And that’s why she’s our Badass Bitch of the Week.
“I know that I’ve had a very fortunate life, but also I think my job as an actor is to connect emotionally to human beings,” the Boyhood star told Mother Jones last year.
That connection has led the 46-year-old to supporting causes that range from equal pay to trans rights and breast cancer awareness. Her latest form of activism? Joining a United Nations initiative called the Equal Pay Platform of Champions, which aims to close the gender wage gap.
In an interview with the UN, Arquette revealed that her reason for joining the initiative, which was launched this week by UN Women and the International Labor Organization, came from her mother, who died of breast cancer in 1998. The Academy Award-winning actress recalled her mother being unable to divorce her father because she would lose her health insurance and would not be able to afford cancer treatment. “Once you are six months out of a relationship with that man, you are kind of invisible,” she said.
But Arquette’s fight for equal pay started during her Oscars acceptance speech in 2015, when she famously said this: “To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”
Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez cheered, clapped, and screamed, “Yes! Yes!,” turning the speech into a memorable GIF and an even more unforgettable acknowledgment of the wage gap that exists in and out of Hollywood.
Arquette’s portrayal of a working single mother in Boyhood, the 2014 coming-of-age film directed by Richard Linklater, not only earned her a gold statuette for Best Supporting Actress, but brought to light issues surrounding women playing the role of family breadwinners in America. “The way I felt was: Why is it acceptable that millions of women are paid less, they don’t have violent crimes investigated properly, they’re turned away from domestic abuse shelters with their children in tow, and then sent back to people that murder them or break their necks or bones or teeth,” she said in the aforementioned Mother Jones article.
Last year, she lost her sister, Alexis, a transgender actress, cabaret performer, and activist. In the wake of a devastating loss to AIDS, Arquette asked for donations for LGBTQ organizations instead of condolence flowers.
In the fight for equal pay, Arquette has pioneered a new wave of activism, joining other celebrities like Emma Watson and Angelina Jolie, who have also worked alongside the UN.
“It’s not just conceptually the correct thing to do—it’s the thing we must do as a nation. When the woman is getting paid drastically less than the male, that whole family is impacted.”
Arquette’s activism reads like a personal biography. She dedicates her charity to causes close to heart, making it clear that celebrity activism does not, at least in some instances, have to be fake. It doesn’t have to save the world or monetize on it. Instead, it can just do the right thing.