As Patricia Arquette was being interviewed on the red carpet before the Oscars, she must have known she was going to win. She made a strange joke about waking up that morning and wanting to go for a hike in the mountains to get lost and "eat bark." Then she laughed nervously, because that's what she must have been feeling. She knew that if/when she won, she was going to make a speech, and since her speech was written, she knew she was going to say something important -- something that may not be well-received, but something that needed to be said, anyway.
When she went on stage to accept her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in Boyhood, her voice shook as she read a list of names from a piece of paper and gave sincere thank-yous to her family. But suddenly, as her hands trembled, she launched into a speech about equal pay and women's rights. The camera cut to Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez sitting on the edges of their seats, emphatically agreeing with Patricia's bold statements during her moment to shine.
Also while on the red carpet, Reese Witherspoon began trending on Twitter -- not because of what she was wearing, although she looked beautiful -- but because of the hashtag she started on Twitter #AskHerMore. It wasn't ask HIM more, but ask HER more. She meant, ask the women on the red carpet something more than who designed their dresses, what jewelry they are wearing or who their date might be -- ask her something interesting, important and non-superficial, because women have more to offer than fashion tips.
Earlier this month, during The Grammy's, President Obama made a cameo in a video clip to bring awareness to domestic violence. He urged us to visit ItsOnUs.org and take a pledge to stand up for women and girls who have been victims of domestic violence.
Unless you've been living under a large, dense rock the last few years, you've heard the media messages reaching a deafening pitch: Now is the time for true and lasting gender equality. Campaign after campaign, speech after speech is pointing the compass of our social awareness toward a change in how we view our gender roles. As a woman who in the last five years has sued a company for sexual harassment and left an abusive marriage, I want to shout hallelujah from the rooftops. I want to stand on the edge of my seat in solidarity with Meryl and JLo.
But... as the mother who has a daughter AND a son, I have to question all these messages on young ears.
Yes, women deserve equal pay. Yes, women need to be able to reach the highest levels of leadership AND be mothers. Yes, young girls need to understand their value has nothing to do with the size of their jeans. But young boys, who are being raised by women like me, who will (hopefully) have little reference to gender inequality when they reach adulthood, need to know the exact same things.
My son will not see his sister as possessing inferior capabilities in any regard. My son will not be raised believing he's better, or more or less capable because of his gender, and any messages he receives otherwise will quickly be illuminated by his loving, feminist mother. And yet, the media may keep telling him how incredibly capable girls are.
Gender inequality is real and should not be denied. I've lived it in every way; professionally and personally. More work needs to be done to raise awareness of women's rights because we're not there yet. But I'm a mom of a boy. And I worry just as much about his view of himself as I do my daughter's. I can't help it. I love them both equally.
And I can't help but feel that THAT'S the ultimate campaign. To love, equally.