Activism Media

At the Emmys, Award Winners Use Their Acceptance Speeches to Highlight Feminist Issues

Last night, The 71st Primetime Emmy Awards was shown on Fox, awarding actors, directors, writers, and others for their work in television over the past year. Throughout the night there were a few historic wins, including Billy Porter for Best Lead Actor in a dramatic category for his work in the show “Pose.” Porter is the first openly gay black man to be awarded in this category. Additionally, 21 year old Jharrel Jerome is one of the youngest Emmy winners in the limited series or movie category for his role in “When They See Us.” He is the first Afro-Latinx winner in the category. Besides these important milestones, some award winners used their time on stage to highlight social issues that are meaningful to them.

Actress Patricia Arquette, who won for best supporting actress in a limited series or movie for “The Act,” expressed her gratitude and excitement for the award before turning towards an issue that is deeply personal to her. “[In] my heart, I’m so sad,” she stated. “I lost my sister Alexis, and that trans people are still being persecuted, and I’m in mourning every day of my life.” Arquette’s sister Alexis, who was transgender, passed away from complications related to HIV in 2016. “Change the world so trans people are not persecuted. And give them jobs. They’re human beings, so give them jobs,” Arquette concluded. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, job discrimination against trans people of color in particular has led one in eight into extreme poverty. Just last August, the Department of Justice submitted a brief to the Supreme Court asking to set a legal precedent that would allow employers to fire transgender employees.

Another award winner, Michelle Williams, used her acceptance speech for best lead actress in a limited series or movie to highlight wage inequality in the workplace. The “Fosse/Verdon” actress thanked the show’s producers for “supporting me completely and paying me equally.” She went on to discuss how wage equality promotes empowerment and autonomy in the workplace, saying “so the next time a woman — especially a woman of color, because she stands to make 52 cents on the dollar to her white male counterpart — tells you what she needs to do her job, listen to her, believe her.” The National Partnership for Women and Families has reported in a study that wage disparities exist across all industries, and that women of color face the brunt of this type of inequality.

Sources: LA Times 9/22/19; ET Online 9/22/19; Washington Post 9/22/19; National Center for Transgender Equality; Time 8/17/19; National Partnership for Women and Families, September 2019