What Frances McDormand’s Oscars Speech Meant, And Why It’s So Important

The actress spoke of an 'inclusion rider' - but what does that mean?

Best Actress winner Frances McDormand’s rousing speech was one of the highlights of the Oscars last night – in it, she asked all of the female nominees in the room to stand up, and called on Hollywood to tell their stories:

We all have stories to tell and projects we need financed. Don’t talk to us about it at the parties tonight – invite us into your office in a couple of days, or you can come to ours, whichever suits you best, and we’ll tell you all about them. I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen: Inclusion. Rider.

McDormand’s final words were met with a bit of confused applause in the theatre, and no doubt everyone there was rushing to Google what she was talking about.

As per The Guardian, an ‘inclusion rider’ is a clause that an actor can insist be included in their contract which requires the cast and crew of a film to meet a standard of diversity.

The concept comes from film professor Stacy Smith, who suggested that A-listers adopt the riders as part of a solution to Hollywood’s dire lack of representation both on and off screen.

McDormand is saying that if she signs on to a project, she expects the studio to make an effort to hire a certain number of people of different races, genders and abilities – quite a statement to make on the Oscars stage.

She elaborated on it backstage after her win:

I just found out about this last week. The fact that I just learned that after 35 years of being in the film business… we’re not going back. So the whole idea of women ‘trending’? No, no trending. African Americans ‘trending’? No trending. It changes now. And I think the inclusion rider will have something to do with that.

My red carpet date ? @octaviaspencer

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We’ve already seen a few examples of how inclusion riders might work. Last year, Octavia Spencer said that Jessica Chastain had fought for her to make five times her salary by negotiating a joint deal for the both of them. Similarly, Emma Stone revealed that some of her male co-stars have taken pay cuts so she would be paid the same.

After hearing McDormand’s speech last night, fellow Oscar winner Brie Larson pledged to fight for an inclusion rider in her contracts:

It’s yet to be seen if any more high-profile stars decide to follow McDormand’s lead – but it would be a powerful message to a Hollywood that’s still only paying lip service to diversity.

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