Whether or not you watched the Academy Awards, you certainly had an opportunity to witness the public harassment – or praise – of Patricia Arquette. Ms. Arquette, during her acceptance speech and follow-up interviews, called for equal pay for women and other groups to help fight for it.
Was what she said factual? Yes. Women make less than men, even in high income fields like movie actors. Even the US Labor Department tweeted about her comment:
But where she went off track was saying, “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” and following it up backstage with, “The truth is, even though we sort of feel like we have equal rights in America, right under the surface, there are huge issues that are at play that do affect women, and it’s time for all the women in America and all the men that love women and all the gay people and all the people of color that we all fought for to fight for us now.”
Yikes! The blogosphere and social media took off like gangbusters! Some people praised her comments and her for bringing them to the large stage, but most engaged in the fine art of picking apart what she said: Why did she mention woman who gave birth? Why did she mention taxpayers? Are women who haven’t given birth excluded? Are the unemployed or stay-at-home caregivers not included? And in reference to her follow-up comments: Gays and people of color have won their fight and are not some of them women?
What does this say to us at Hatha Communications? It says that words have power; words can be misconstrued; and even the most noble, well-intentioned statement is fodder for a rapidly spreading attack via social media.
Let’s face it – Patricia Arquette is an actor and, as such, we are sure she employs a PR team (and we are certain they were extremely busy in the seconds after her proclamation!) She is probably intelligent – it takes brains to be a good actor – but she also reads lines that are written for her.
The perfect message is a skill. It isn’t always off the cuff, or even written on a crumpled sheet of paper that has been clutched in hope of the opportunity to read it. That is why people, organizations and companies employ a Public Relations firm, like Hatha Communications. We are experts in telling the story or getting the cause spread in the proper light. We have experience and we all know that “practice makes perfect.”
But, should she have been pilloried for making her statements? Didn’t we all know what she really meant? Haven’t we all stumbled to find the right words and later thought of the perfect phrase? Does an actor have to be fed every line?
The real take-away here is that when you are in the spotlight, you walk a tightrope. Make sure you have a safety net and a good PR team holding it. And women deserve to be paid as much as men.