It’s hard to feel sorry for millionaires in Hollywood, given that they work in an extremely well-paid workplace, but sexism is as rife there as it is here in 2017. Is it relative? Strictly speaking no but the common thread is that it affects those women as it does us. That stubborn pay gap isn’t going anywhere; here or in Hollywood. In the normal land of the living, you can still actually get sent home from work for not wearing heels. Over the glitzy LA yonder, you can’t get work because you’re past it at 32, heels or not. You could be overlooked for promotion for no good reason but some men still nab Oscars, regardless of what may have occurred in their past. And at the end of the day, your age will make you old, not experienced, whether you have a place on the Walk of Fame or are a top CEO.
So, all this means that it’s worth taking note when women of influence try to step up and change the status quo; yes, a few make (a lot) more than we do but they have a public platform and a chance to set something alight. Along with ageism, the biggest discrepancy for women in the film industry is the pay gap. Some can’t see the point in ever complaining considering the size of the checks they receive per film, but does it mean it ceases to matter? No, and definitely not to the women that can’t get work due to their gender.
Which is why we have to give actress Jessica Chastain extra kudos for her negotiating skills: if a male co-star earns more, she simply won’t do the film. “I’m not allowing that in my life. I remember watching [former producer Amy Pascal] giving a talk somewhere. She said part of the reason women don’t get paid equal to men is they don’t ask for more; [they] need to stop being so grateful. Women need to step forward and demand they’re fairly compensated for their work,” she told Variety.
And of course, it’s different in reality if we’re dependent on a job as a working mother to three children (for example), it isn’t easy to walk away – often you have no choice but to stay – but the sentiment is important, especially in the workplace. Know your worth; if you aim low, so will your employer.
This is what Chastain does before any job starts – asks about the fairness of pay between herself and her male costars. And if the figures don’t match, out of principle, she’ll walk away.
“There was something huge that I recently turned down. I remember afterwards I was like, “What did I do? Maybe it was a mistake.” But it wasn’t, because everyone in the studio system heard what I did. So what you’re doing is creating a reputation. Even though I lost that film, I’ve created a boundary. I drew a line in the sand.”
It’s trying to make that mark stick that’s the difficult part, but her words are on point. In a world where women are constantly undermined in the workplace, her words are a reminder that we should draw more of our own lines; say no, demand more in the fight for equality.
Plant those little apples now, and wait. And channel your inner Chastain and remember to grab yours when it does.