Best Supporting Actress winner Patricia Arquette says “it’s about time” to call for equality for women in America.
While accepting her award on Sunday evening, the actress used her highly visible platform at the Oscars to address the wage gap between men and women.
“To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights,” said Arquette, 46, as she clutched the award for her role in Boyhood.
“It’s high time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America,” she added, which prompted women in the audience like Jennifer Lopez and Meryl Streep to excitedly cheer her on. The hashtags #WageEquality and #EqualRights quickly began trending on Twitter following her impassioned speech.
Backstage, Arquette told reporters that she gave Streep a hug for her reaction to her speech. “She is the patron saint of actresses,” she said, before going on to explain why she chose to speak out for women. “It is time for women,” said Arquette. “Equal means equal. Older women get less money. The highest percentage of children living in poverty are in female-headed households. We talk about equal rights in other countries but not in our own country.”
Added Arquette: “One of the Supreme Justices said two years ago in a law speech at a university that we don’t have equal rights in America because when they wrote the Constitution they didn’t intend it for women. It’s time for women in America and all the men, all the gay men, the people of color, to fight for us now. We need federal laws that are comprehensive.”
“It’s about time,” she later told PEOPLE of her impassioned speech. “People need to talk about this. There is no reason why in 2015 women and men aren’t making the same amount of money. It’s time to talk about it now.”
As for her statements being called controversial? Well, Arquette doesn’t care. “Guess what?” she said. “At one point it was controversial that blacks couldn’t vote.”
Arquette’s onstage speech followed a red carpet appearance during which she evoked “this silly mani-cam business,” telling Ryan Seacrest that she worked on her charity instead of getting a manicure that morning.
“I was working on launching this Chideo site for an experience where you can enter a sweepstakes and go with me on a global mission with one of our projects with GiveLove.org,” she said, “where we do ecological sanitation work in the neediest communities around the world.”
• Reporting by LYNETTE RICE and AILI NAHAS