With the prospect of America electing its first woman president, the White House moving to ensure a substantial education for young girls, and the nation making strides toward closing the gender wage gap and bringing attention to addressing campus sexual assault, there has never been a more welcoming time to take a stand for women’s equality.
But the way in which some stars have used their platform to share the message has been perplexing, if not damaging to the cause. And that is too bad.
Madonna, an icon for women’s expression with a resume boasting everything from singer to director, said in a recent interview with Out magazine that women still have a ways to go on the women’s rights track. That’s an accurate assessment in many respects -- one recent study from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, for example, found that women won’t have equal pay for at least 40 years. Unfortunately, the legendary Queen of Pop didn’t stop there.
"People are a lot more open-minded to the gay community than they are to women, period ... It’s moved along for the gay community, for the African-American community, but women are still just trading on their ass,” claimed Madonna in the interview.
And then: "Women are still the most marginalized group. They’re still the group that people won’t let change."
Fans on social media expressed disappointment and sadness in her statement. One person tweeted: “NO. Let’s not play oppression olympics.”
It’s the same kind of backlash actress Patricia Arquette received over her now-infamous comment on equal pay after winning an Oscar this year. “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’ve all fought for to fight for us now,” she told the press backstage at the Academy Awards.
The comment sparked rage and debate across the Internet. Many critics pointed out that equal pay should not be limited to white, straight women, and one tweet even called her remark “dangerous.”
And that’s not an exaggeration. Comparing women to gay and black people completely misses the point of bridging equality in this country, and could potentially fuel unnecessary rifts. It’s a struggle in itself to be the minority -- why turn it into an elbow-throwing race to the top of the equality ladder? And to point out the obvious: there are gay women, and there are black women, both of whom face the same gender discrimination regardless of their race or sexuality.
The U.S. is behind in gender equality on several fronts: Only 3% of women hold board positions on one of the country’s 500 biggest companies, of the 535 seats in the U.S. Congress, women currently make up 19.4%, and in 2013, women were paid just 78% of what men were paid. Reproductive health, paid leave, and education for all young women have been fought for to unprecedented levels in 2015, igniting a force behind gender equality like never before.
LGBT rights and the “black lives matter” movement are powerful forces for change. But when addressing women's rights, it's best just to stick to women.