In May of 2016 the ACLU of Southern California let it be known that the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs are conducting an investigation into the industry’s hiring practices. If they do follow through, this could prevent unfair wages, improve character roles, and help correct the overall slant on Hollywood that the actresses in this article are facing.
Mila Kunis: On Being Forced To Be Sexy
Mila Kunis recently made headlines after publishing an article on her husband’s website A Plus. She wrote about how incredibly unfair Hollywood is when it comes to the issue of gender inequality. She talks specifically about her experience with higher-ups in Hollywood and how she has felt discriminated against based on her gender.
She noted an experience in which she was told “You’ll never work in this town again.” This was reportedly in response to the fact that she refused to strip down for a magazine cover to promote a film. Her letter was calling for changes to be made to the film industry. Surely, she probably seems to think of it even more now that she has a daughter of her own.
Jennifer Aniston: On Not Being A Mother
Jennifer recently appeared on British television network ITV, and spoke about the criticism she faces as a woman who has chosen not to have children. And even more specifically, she says the people casting such criticism are women. She said, “The thought of a woman as sad just because she is childless… Why do we see women through such a narrow lens?”
She continued, “If women don’t have a baby or a husband or a house with a white picket fence then we’re seen as useless – like we’re not living up to our purpose. Sadly- but it’s true – usually are women. It’s shocking to me that we are not changing the conversation.” Jennifer makes such an amazing point about women criticizing women, in this day and age, women should do all they can to support one another.
Kathryn Bigelow: On Being A Female Director
Kathryn is famous for being the first and only woman to win Best Director at the Academy Awards, for the war film Zero Dark Thirty. In 2015, the ACLU targeted discriminatory practices against female directors asking the federal government for a probe. Kathryn responded with her own statement saying “I have always firmly believed that every director should be judged solely by their work, and not by their work based on their gender.”
She continued, “Hollywood is supposedly a community of forward thinking and progressive people yet this horrific situation for women directors persists. Gender discrimination stigmatizes our entire industry. Change is essential. Gender neutral hiring is essential.” Kathryn is absolutely right, all people should be judged by their work, not by their gender.
The 2014 Sony Hacks
During the week of Thanksgiving 2014 the Sony empire was hacked by a group called Guardians of Peace. They grabbed all of the information off of the computers of Sony workers, including the top executives, and threatened to publish the information for all to see, if the company failed to provide “monetary compensation” and “pay the damage, or Sony Pictures will be bombarded as a whole.”
Every employee’s screen showed a blood red skeleton with “Hacked by #GOP” on it, and the entire Sony network was down. As the hackers posted not-yet-released films online, they continued giving threats, and on December 1st leaked a story with the headline, “Hacked documents reveal a Hollywood studio’s stunning gender and race gap.”
Jennifer Lawrence: Oscar Winning & Earning Less
Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence is another actress who expressed her frustrations about the wage gap affecting Hollywood. More specifically, she responded after the Sony hacks released that she earned a lot less money than her male co-stars for the film American Hustle.
The letter was published in Lena Dunham’s Lenny Letter newsletter. She says, “Could there still be a lingering habit of trying to express our opinions in a certain way that doesn’t ‘offend’ or ‘scare’ men?” This is certainly an issue that affects women throughout the United States in more industries than just Hollywood. Jennifer is definitely on to something!
Her $52 Million to His $80 Million
Still, Jennifer Lawrence is currently the world’s top paid actress, pulling in $52 million a year. Although it’s an incredible amount of money for anyone to pull in, and she certainly can’t claim that she can’t live off of it, there’s room to argue that she should, in fact, be getting paid more when you consider that that world’s highest paid actor is pulling in $80 million a year.
In fact, those numbers prove the entire argument of just how bad the pay gap is between men and women in the entertainment industry. In this instance, the man is making 35 percent more than the woman, which is totally unfair.
Emma Watson: A U.N. Ambassador
Harry Potter star Emma Watson has made it part of her life’s work to speak up on behalf of women’s rights. The actress is now a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. In 2014, she delivered a speech at the UN headquarters in New York and talked about the campaign launch of HeforShe. The campaign suggests that men should also take up the feminist cause and fight for the rights of the women in their lives.
Emma said, “I want men to take up this mantle. So their daughters, sisters and mothers can be free from prejudice but also so that their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human too—reclaim those parts of themselves they abandoned and in doing so be a more true and complete version of themselves.” Who would have known little Hermione would have ended up this way?!
Ava Duvernay: Being Snubbed At The Oscars
Ava Duvernay is notable, not only for being an award-winning female director but also as an African-American female director. There was some backlash after she wasn’t nominated for an Oscar for her directorial debut with the film Middle of Nowhere, and many many saw it as a snub based purely on her gender.
Ava said, “As long as women make up only 20 percent of Congress, as long as senior movie studio execs are 93 percent male and only four percent of studio films are directed by women; as long as the President of the United States, the VP, the Speaker of the House, the Secretaries of State, of the Treasury, of Defense, are all men [this will not change].”
An Intersectional Inspiration
Ava Duvernay said, “You have to go seven layers down [in the governmnet] to find a woman, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, on the succession plan—then I’d say, Yes, we need ‘women’s media.’ We need as many ‘women in’ gatherings that we can dream up.”
While she did make history for becoming the first woman director to win the Best Director Award at the Sundance film festival, clearly more steps need to be taken for equality for women. Ava makes an excellent point about representation, even in the highest form of government. And after the recent 2016 presidential election, clearly, we might have some more work to do.
Jessica Chastain: Acting for Less Money
Actress Jessica Chastain is another actress who has spoken out about gender inequality affecting her directly in Hollywood and that she’s being paid less because of it. Jessica said, “We need more diversity. We’re not telling the stories of many, we’re telling the stories of few…There’s misinformation out there. Someone wrote an article once that I made a certain amount of money for The Martian. I made less than a quarter of that in reality. And so people are already saying, ‘yeah, she’s making less than her male co-stars because she’s making this.’ I made less than a quarter of that in reality. There is a huge wage gap in the industry.”
All of these actresses seem to be echoing similar sentiments about the unfair issues they face in Hollywood, what is it going to take for an actual change to happen?
Meryl Streep: Still Facing Inequality
Even the icon, Meryl Streep, who has been working in Hollywood for decades, has faced gender discrimination in the industry. Meryl discussed the assumptions and stereotypes women face, just for being women in the world at large. She said, “No one has ever asked an actor, ‘You’re playing a strong-minded man.’ We assume that men are strong-minded, or have opinions. But a strong-minded woman is a different animal.”
Often women who are assertive are thought of as rude while men are thought of as strong. The double standard persists throughout Hollywood and the rest of the working world! To quote, Donald Trump, “Very unfair!”
Lena Dunham: One Of The Girls
Lena Dunham is a relatively young and upcoming star in her own right. She is famous for writing, directing, and acting in her own productions including the creation of Girls on HBO. Lena is also a known feminist who speaks out about various issues women face in the film industry and the world.
Lena discussed why feminism is important and what it means to her, she said, “Feminists believe that men and women should have the same opportunities. If you are a feminist you believe in equal rights as a whole. That’s not a concept you can really shoot down. We’re going to be compensated fairly for our jobs, we’re going to be given the opportunity to make choices about our bodies and we’re going to be safe.” Truly a strong stance to take as a Hollywood newcomer!
Kerry Washington: Eloquent Actress
Scandal actress Kerry Washington plays a powerful woman on screen and is an equally powerful woman off screen. Kerry has long been vocal about a number of causes and issues, including women’s rights. Kerry also discusses the idea of intersectionality and how telling stories about minorities, including women, is still hard to do in Hollywood.
Intersectionality is defined as the interconnected nature of social categories such as race, class, and gender, and create overlapping and interdependent systematic discrimination. Kerry said, “Having your story told as a woman, as a person of color, as a lesbian, or as a trans person or as any member of any disenfranchised community is sadly often still a radical idea.” Here’s to hoping Kerry continues to challenge the status quo!
Natalie Portman: The Educated Child Star
Natalie Portman has been acting since she was a child but also gained a degree from Harvard University. Natalie has been active in a variety of social and political causes for many years. She discussed what she thinks it means to be feminist or how to portray feminist roles on the silver screen.
She said, “I want every version of a woman and a man to be possible…The fallacy in Hollywood is that if you’re making a ‘feminist’ story, the woman kicks butt and wins. That’s not feminist; that’s macho. A movie about a weak, vulnerable woman can be feminist if it shows a real person that we can empathize with.” Perhaps we will see this in her recent role playing Jackie Kennedy Onassis, set to hit theaters soon!
Carey Mulligan: Across The Pond Inequality
Carey Mulligan is a British actress most known for her role in the film An Education. Carey is also outspoken about women’s rights. She starred in a film in 2015 called Suffragette, the film centered on the Suffragette movement in the UK and got very little notoriety.
Carey said, “I think we have a sexist film industry, and stories about women are largely untold. This is one [Suffragette] that’s fallen by the wayside because of that.” Clearly, Carey has stated that women have always and continued to face discrimination even across the pond. After welcoming a daughter of her own in 2015, surely she feels even stronger about this issue.
Nicole Kidman: Down Under Feminist
The uber-famous award-winning actress Nicole Kidman has also weighed in on issues surrounding her unfair treatment. Nicole has three daughters, one with ex-husband Tom Cruise and two with husband Keith Urban. Although she is allegedly estranged from her eldest daughter, there is no doubt she has strong feelings about the unequal treatment of women in Hollywood not only for herself but for her daughters’ sakes.
Nicole has said, “Obviously we need to create more opportunities, it’s not an even playing field…We also need to put cameras in little girls’ hands and get them to tell stories and increase their confidence so that they can feel powerful.” Putting cameras into the hands of girls at a young age would certainly be a fantastic way to hear more stories from women and girls.
Beyoncé: Megastar Feminist
Beyoncé has made feminism at the center point of her career at this point. She often uses both her music and her performances to address woman’s equality. She even sampled famous African author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in her song Flawless. Beyoncé has also spoken out of pay discrepancy between men and women saying, “You know, equality is a myth, and for some reason, everyone accepts the fact that women don’t make as much money as men do. I don’t understand that. Why do we have to take a backseat?”
You would think that society would have progressed enough at this day in age for people to simply be equal. However, the majority feels as though minorities being given rights means that they will have to sacrifice theirs when that is simply not the case. One thing is for sure, Beyoncé has a flawless way of looking at the world.
Patricia Arquette: Using Her Platform For Good
Actress Patricia Arquette is certainly no Hollywood newcomer and when she won Best Supporting Actress for her role in the film Boyhood, she used her platform as a moment to speak about the unequal divide women face in Hollywood.
Patricia used her entire allotted speech time to speak about these issues, and she said, “To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America.” What a remarkable way to use her time in the limelight for a good cause!
Geena Davis: A Longterm Champion Of Women’s Rights
Geena Davis is a Golden Globe winning and Oscar nominated actress who has long been vocal about women’s issues in Hollywood, even before feminism was cool. She participated in a campaign targeting Congress in the early 2000’s which originally focused on gender equality in sports, prohibiting gender discrimination at educational institutions.
In 2007, Geena founded The Geena Davis Institute on Media. The Institute is a non- profit, which aims to reduce stereotypical female roles, and increase female representation in media. She finds this especially vital in programs marketed to children.
In A League Of Her Own
Geena has said that she thought having roles in female-driven movies such as A League of Their Own and Thelma and Louise would change things in Hollywood for women but it has not. She said, “I’ve been encouraged by my peers speaking out on gender disparity in recent years, but we still are not seeing the actual number change. There’s been no real improvement in the number of female roles since 1946 and there’s still a dearth of female directors.”
That is a pretty crazy statistic, but clearly, Geena is and has been putting in the work and walking the walk to bring about change in Hollywood.
Rooney Mara: A Rich But Caring Actress
Rooney Mara is a young actress who is a multi-Oscar nominee, most known for her role in the film Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. She comes from a very wealthy family whose fortune is in football: her mother’s family founded the Pittsburgh Steelers, and her father’s family founded The New York Giants. Although she grew up with wealth, Rooney Mara is still affected by pay inequality.
Rooney said, “To me, the thing that’s more unfair than the pay is the terminology that’s used to describe actresses who have a point of view, and want to have a voice in their life and their career, and what they choose to do. I’ve been called horrible things. If a man was acting in the same way that I was acting, it would just be considered normal. To me, that’s the thing I find so frustrating is calling women spoiled brats. We just want to have a voice in our life, and I don’t think that’s anything that shouldn’t be encouraged in any human.” Rooney also has a degree from NYU where she studied non-profits, perhaps she will put her fortune to good use and continue to use her voice for valuable causes!
Amy Poehler: Funny Lady Feminist
Funny lady Amy Poehler is another woman who has long spoken out about women’s and girls’ rights in both Hollywood and the world abroad. She played the very decidedly feminist and politician Leslie Knope in the hit television series Parks and Recreation. Amy also started a project with several of her friends called Smart Girls at the Party, which is described as an online community and takes place across all social media platforms. The project has now transformed into the shorter, “Smart Girls” which is an organization aimed at “helping young people cultivate their authentic selves.”
Speaking on the issue of double standards in the film industry, Amy commented, “I have these meetings with really powerful men and they ask me all the time, ‘Where are your kids? Are your kids here?’ It’s such a weird question. Never in a million years do I ask guys where their kids are. It would be comparable to me going to a guy, ‘Do you feel like you see your kids enough?'” Amy’s sentiment echoes Jennifer Aniston’s in that women are also evaluated by whether or not they have children. Surely Amy will continue to use her funny talents to make a difference to the world!
Emmy Rossum: Shamelessly Demanding Retroactive Equal Pay
For the last seven seasons of Showtime’s Shameless, Emmy Rossum, who plays the fearless Fiona Gallagher, has been getting a smaller paycheck than her male co-star, William H. Macy, who plays her father on the show. Before she signs a contract to film the next season, she’s asking that she be paid an equal salary.
What’s more, she’s asking that this be applied retroactively to the seven previous seasons. And when you consider the fact that she is by far one of the most important characters on the show and the fact that she’s even directed some episodes in this series, this request seems like it has an incredibly obvious answer. So, will Showtime ditch their archaic ways and step into the 21st century where equal pay is expected? We shall see.
Keaton is a talented actress and has the Oscar to prove it. So why wasn’t she given back-end pay, while her male co-stars did? Keaton played a star role in the 2003 comedy Something’s Gotta Give, alongside Jack Nicholson. She revealed this information in her memoir Then Again. What’s even more offensive is that she played a bigger role in the film than Nicholson, and should therefore be entitled to the same, if not more back-end pay as him.
Although the studio didn’t step up to make it right, Nicholson did. He sent Keaton a check for half the back-end pay that he received.
When Charlize Theron was called back to do a sequel to the film Snow White and The Huntsman she didn’t take the first offer. That’s because Theron found out the her co-star Chris Hemsworth was signed on to make significantly more than her. Knowing they couldn’t do the film without her, Theron waited it out, until the studio changed their mind.
Upon request, her pay was matched to Hemsworth’s at $10 million to film The Huntsman: Winter’s War. The studio didn’t put up a fight, which means they probably had the means to pay her more, but initially decided not to.
In another instance of women fighting for their worth, The X-Files actress Gillian Anderson was offered half the salary of her male co-star (David Duchovny) to film the second season in the ’90s. Realizing this, she fought for equal pay from the get-go. However, it took her not one, but three seasons of talks with Fox to get her pay matched.
Although coming into the show, her resume wasn’t as long as Duchovny’s, Anderson quickly proved herself to be a talent, and the show ratings speak for themselves.
Another American Hustle co-star who was hustled out of pay was Amy Adams. Although she already had four Oscar nominations to her name, the studio felt that she didn’t deserve as much back-end profits as the men in the film. She discovered the pay gap when the Sony hack happened, and admits that she hasn’t spoken up about it much since she didn’t want to be judged.
She told Vanity Fair, “I didn’t speak about it before and I’m probably not going to speak about it forever, because I disagreed with . . . not Jennifer per se, but people who had opinions on how women should go about negotiating. It’s like we [women] have been conditioned to not be controversial, to not cause problems. It’s about finding your voice.”
Click next to see who was paid only 10 percent of what her male co-star was.
Although she won’t name the project and her co-star, actress Amanda Seyfried was shocked to find out that she was being paid only 10 percent of what her male co-star was being paid. Seyfried said they had equal screen time in the film, which leaves little room to argue for such a huge pay gap.
“I think people think that just because I’m easy-going and game to do things I’ll just take as little as they offer,” she said. Hopefully, having realized what was going on, she’ll use her knowledge to negotiate a better contract in her next role.
Pay Gap in TV Roles
While there is more room for negotiation in television roles, the pay gap is still apparent. The top paid male television actor in 2015 made $9.5 million, while the top paid female actress only made $5 million. In the hit TV series Three’s Company actress Suzanne Somers was denied equal pay, after asking ABC for a raise during the negotiations for the fifth season, to bring her pay up to match co-star John Ritter’s.
It wasn’t a small pay gap either, Ritter was getting paid $150,000 and episode to Somer’s $30,000. The studio agreed to give Somers a raise, but only $5,000 more an episode, instead of the $120,000 more she was asking for. Her contract was terminated and she was replaced on the show.
One of the most well-known names in Hollywood has admitted the pay gap is “painful.” While filming Iron Man, alongside her good friend Robert Downing Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow knew she was being paid significantly less than her male co-star. “Your salary is a way to quantify what you’re worth,” she said. “If men are being paid a lot more for doing the same thing, it feels [explicit].”
Although Paltrow didn’t reveal just how much less she made than Downing, she said, “But if I told you the disparity, you would probably be surprised.” And, unfortunately, as many of the actress’ had explained their reasoning behind not speaking out about the pay gap, several media outlets have decried Paltrow for speaking out, calling her a whiner and complainer.
Natalie Portman Opens Up About Gender Discrimination
In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the wave of allegations against other actors, directors, and producers, Natalie Portman spoke about gender discrimination at the Los Angeles Vulture Festival. The actress described an uncomfortable instance where a producer invited her to join him on a private plane, and although she wasn’t assaulted, it was an eye-opening experience for the star.
Portman added that she believes the industry’s failure to address the long-standing inequalities between genders perpetuates harassment. She believes the solution lies in creating more opportunities for women in film and allowing them to support each other.