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Why Patricia Arquette's Motherhood Is a Small Victory for Feminism in Hollywood (Spoiler Alert)

27/02/2015 09:24 GMT | Updated 27/04/2015 10:59 BST

Patricia Arquette winning the award for Best Supporting Actress at the 2015's Oscar Awards Show is a win for feminism in Hollywood, even though it is a nominal one. I am not referring to Arquette's speech that led to standing ovations from Meryl Streep and J.Lo. Neither am I referring to her press-conference speech afterwards, as I fully agree with the commentary made by Heather Barmore who argued that said speech completely lacked intersectional awareness. I am also not referring to Ms's Magazine's Top 5 Most Feminist Oscars Moments, as the award show in itself is incredibly politicized and socially constructed with most nominations going to white rich men and women. No, I argue that it is a win for feminism because of the Motherhood she, the director, and screenwriters are depicting. It is a win because they are telling the story of Motherhood that is so often silenced as it detracts from the interest of the audience.

While watching Richard Linklater's Boyhood, I could not help myself from thinking these following things:

  • Fathers are allowed to 'pause' their Fatherhood, grow up, then return and pick up where they left. At least according to Hollywood.

  • Hollywood and its audience are not interested in the story about gendered violence from a woman's point of view. I am sure that had the story not been told from Mason's point of view, it would instantly have been niched as a film to fit the 'women's-issues-category' and seen by a considerably much smaller audience.

But then it all came together and everything became so clear in that scene when Arquette's Motherhood is at its most vulnerable point in the movie. In a self-indulgent way she bursts out "You know what I'm realizing? My life is just gonna go, like that! [...] I just thought there would be more." This is where I pause the movie for reflection. Several things are tied up in this second of great sorrow and utter pure selfishness.

First, the story of Motherhood, which has been a parallel story throughout the movie, transgresses and steals the spot as the main story of the film. The spectator might be that of an adolescent boy and how he perceives growing up, but for me (like Carraway to Gatsby) he is merely the protagonist narrator to a story that goes beyond. For me Boyhood is the story of gender roles, domestic violence, growing up, and pop culture. But most importantly, it is the story of Motherhood and Fatherhood with its shortcomings and merits. However, note my words, in no way am I rejecting the importance of illustrating domestic violence from the eyes of a child as they are also indirectly violated, but for me the storyline goes further than that.

Secondly, Arquette confirms my fear of becoming a mother. A fear that has led to my non-normative decision in not having children; a decision that is constantly contested by society, my mother every time we Skype, and none the least by myself. Do I fear having children, because I am to selfish to give up my future to them? Or am I simply being immature, and cannot see that children can also give something to my life? But with Arquette's Mother-figure, are we also saying that there is nothing wrong with being self-indulgent, selfish. That after giving so much to others we must allow ourselves to contemplate "What about Me?" and "Am I not meant to be the lead in my own life?" However, we might come to terms with all the wonderful things other people bring to us, as we bring to them. As such, there is actually nothing wrong with a moment of selfishness in Motherhood. And by awarding Arquette for her portrayal of Motherhood, Hollywood is recognising this brutal honesty that is so often silenced, and detracts from the general story of the heroic sacrificing mother. We are all flawed.

This is why Arquette's Motherhood is a win for feminism. In that scene of brutal self-reflection and honesty, a scene that is the complete deal breaker for me, Linklater allows for Motherhood to be in the spotlight. Camouflaged as a parallel story, Linklater, executed by Arquette, makes Motherhood the main story in Boyhood, and it is this honest reflection Hollywood is awarding.