It was the Oscars moment that caused Meryl Streep to jump out of her seat, jab her finger in the air, and scream, “YES!” over and over again.
The 87th annual Academy Awards had reached a critical lull in the proceedings. But the snooze-worthy broadcast was momentarily salvaged by journeywoman actress Patricia Arquette, who delivered a rousing speech upon accepting the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Boyhood.
First Arquette thanked her fellow nominees, the cast and crew of the 12-year project Boyhood, and her friends and family, “who all work so hard to make this world a better place.”
Then she brought the house down.
“To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights,” shouted a fiery Arquette. “It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America!”
The entire place—Streep and seatmate Jennifer Lopez included—rose to their feet for the night’s biggest standing ovation.
Arquette’s words must have resonated with her fellow actresses and female filmmakers in the room. Despite the lucrativeness of female-led franchises such as Twilight and The Hunger Games, women are still treated like second-class citizens in Hollywood. (For proof, check out New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis’s eye-opening series on the film industry’s eye-rolling double standards. Also recall the recent Sony hack revelation unearthed by The Daily Beast that Jennifer Lawrence was compensated less than her less famous male colleagues on the recent film American Hustle; and a disturbing study concluding that women made up just 12 percent of all lead protagonists in the top-grossing films of 2014, down three percentage points from 2013.)
Hollywood has a serious woman problem, and Arquette (rightfully) called the industry out on it. The question is what—if anything—the industry will do to fix it.