Female equality has been a challenging topic in the entertainment industry for many years. While we have seen progress, sexism against actresses is an ongoing problem. Earlier this year, for example, Blake Lively was forced to dodge a question about her dress right before accepting an award for her fierce battle against child pornography, a question that undermined her accomplishments. Just this week, Game of Thrones actress Lena Headey described how refusing to flirt with casting directors or accept their advances got her turned down for roles.
And this inequality continues to play out in the pay gap between male and female actors. We learned through the 2014 Sony leak, for example that for American Hustle, #JenniferLawrence and #AmyAdams received 7% as back-end compensation compared to their male costars' 9%. This was despite the fact that Lawrence was and is one of the most bankable actors around. And we recently learned about yet another actress that's had to face sexism throughout her career: Emma Stone.
The actress is starring in #BattleOfTheSexes, a movie about the real-life 1973 tennis match between the legendary Billie Jean King (Stone) and Bobby Riggs (#SteveCarrell). To promote the movie, Stone sat down for an interview with OUT Magazine alongside King herself. There, the topic of equal pay in the industry came up, as Stone drew parallels between that and the situation depicted in her new film. And the comparison brought up some disturbing truths about Hollywood's gender pay gap—again:
"The parallels in this movie are pretty fascinating [...] It was very interesting to see [...] this narcissistic, self-focused, constantly-stirring-the-pot kind of guy—against this incredible, qualified woman [...] Those parallels make sense to me—the equal-pay issue makes a lot of sense to me. At our best right right now we’re making 80 cents to the dollar."
These comments echo what #NataliePortman said last year. During an interview with Marie Claire UK, the actress revealed she earned three times less than her costar, Ashton Kutcher, in 2011's No String Attached, despite her global recognition and star power. She also stated women in Hollywood made 30 cents the dollar compared to men, on average.
How Stone's Co-Stars Came Together To Support Her
Later on in the interview, #EmmaStone made a surprising revelation: Throughout her career, her male costars have consistently earned more money than her, but have chosen to take pay cuts to give the actress a fair deal:
"In my career so far, I’ve needed my male co-stars to take a pay cut so that I may have parity with them. And that’s something they do for me because they feel it’s what’s right and fair. That’s something that’s also not discussed, necessarily—that our getting equal pay is going to require people to selflessly say, 'That's what's fair.' If my male co-star, who has a higher quote than me but believes we are equal, takes a pay cut so that I can match him, that changes my quote in the future and changes my life."
"It's not about, 'Women are this and men are that.' It is, 'We are all the same, we are all equal, we all deserve the same respect and the same rights.' And that’s really what I've been so grateful for with male co-stars—when I've been in a similar-size role in films, and it’s been multiple people who have been really incredible and said, 'That’s what I want to do. That’s what’s fair and what’s right.'"
Stone makes a great point: It's not about each sex deserving more than the other or each one having different necessities. A surprising amount of people confuse equality with superiority, with one gender towering over another one. But that's not the case, the meaning's in the word: It means equal treatment of both. And while her male costars taking pay cuts is fantastic to hear, it's also troubling that they even need to in the first place.
So, What Can Be Done To Turn Things Around?
According to an estimate done by non-profit organization The World Economic Forum, progress on equal pay for women has slowed down in the past three years in the United States. Based on the current rate, it could take a staggering 169 years to close the gender pay gap for good. Even more worrying, the US is #45 in the 2016 Global Gender Gap Record.
So, what can we do to finally see a significant change in our mentality? Educate the masses. It's a similar situation to our evolution in tolerance. Twenty years ago, very few individuals would have predicted such a progressive shift in mentality toward gay marriage, for example, but it came because the topic was tackled head on and people made a stand. Yes, it was quite difficult to achieve that and we're still fighting, but a change occurred. It's the same thing with sexism. We will see a change if we continue to shine a light on it. As #SandraBullock explained during an interview with Variety in 2015:
"It’s a bigger issue than money [...] We’re mocked and judged in the media and articles. Really, how men are described in articles versus women, there's a big difference [...] Once we start shifting how we perceive women and stop thinking about them as 'less than,' the pay disparity will take care of itself. There's a much bigger issue at hand. I’m glad Hollywood got caught."
I'm aware that the answer essentially comes down to "keep fighting back." Yes, that's disappointing, but it's what needs to be done in our society. There's never a magic bullet for change; with billions of people in the world, changing mindsets takes time, especially with how deep-rooted this backward mentality is. But if we persevere in educating others on just how stupid it is to judge people by their chromosome count, we'll eventually give our society the evolution it sorely needs.
What do you think about Emma Stone's comments regarding pay inequality? Let me know in the comments!