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Why Should Only Women In Hollywood Get ‘Equal Pay’? My Response To Jennifer Lawrence’s Open Letter

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By Jason Jayology:

I was reading Jennifer Lawrence’s monograph on gender income parity in Hollywood. I am an artistic director for a theatre for intersectional women’s rights globally, so I understand the burn in knowing exactly how it feels to learn that you have in some way been glossed over in the world of the arts. I do not know what it feel like to be glossed over though because of my gender, my sex, my race, my identity. Jennifer Lawrence’s recent letter Why Do I Make Less Than My Co-Stars, for Lena Dunham’s ‘Lenny’ newsletter, which appeared in Ms. Magazine in the United States, illuminates her feelings based on an intercepted Sony email that brought to light the discrepancy. She followed up by doing the right thing, the hard thing, and the not so politic thing in a culture that can easily end your career for hurting the male ego brass. Following the incident actor Bradley Cooper stood up and did something equally important, he said, as noted in Reuters, “Usually you don’t talk about the financial stuff, you have people. But you know what? It’s time to start doing that.” Women and Men working together to fight for pay equality through transparency. Done.

jennifer lawrence flickr
Image source: MingleMediaTV/Flickr

Except we’re not done. Something bothered me about all of this. You recall, this isn’t the first time this parity- which isn’t fair- it is not fair, has been brought up. Initially, when I read it the first time, I saw it on the ‘Miss Representation’ Facebook page. Under the article were hundreds- literally hundreds of comment points rallying JLA’s postulations, alongside thousands of likes on the article. Yet, after reading it my heart sank into my stomach. How do so many people care to speak up, to like, to share, to illuminate this issue, to make this mainstream, when it comes to a very rich small proportion of society, who in reality don’t have to care for much in their day to day they have people to do that for them, and access to agency- this publication, but if it were about the women making $7.50/hr, getting their forty hours cut to reach a retailer’s erroneous year-to-date sales goals at say a fast food or clothing retailer, or working as a home care health provider- who doesn’t get to see her own home or an undocumented woman forced/stuck in the shadow economy doing what she needs/forced to do in order to eat- silence? Now, I am not saying in the scheme of a culture of equality one isn’t more important than the ‘other,’ but one actually is more important than the other. This is without even invoking the women in export/import, sweat shops, manufacturing free trade zones making nothing, virtual slaves for cheap commodities-the phones and clothes celebrities and company use and wear without a second thought.

When I had posted my views on this- the urgency factor, a bunch of people said, both issues are important, but I never saw an article on a Facebook page that has accrued such following and interaction on the narrative of the low/slave/exploited wages of women workers. These massive Facebook NPO/NGOs don’t shed light on the latter. Even worse, they deny the politics of representation and economic exploitation in the truncated marginalized Huffington Post discussions of the low/slave wages evolution of Jim Crowe corporate surrogacy nurtured in social-Darwinism, coddled by the media. Now just to prove the difference and presence of urgency:

Jennifer Lawrence (Net Worth): $60 Million
Bradley Cooper (Net Worth): $60 Million
Daniel Craig: $65 Million
Penelope Cruz: $55 Million
Elijah Wood: $30 Million
Dustin Hoffman: $50 Million
Samuel L Jackson: $150 Million
Salma Hayek: $85 million.
Denzel Washington: $140 Million
Julia Roberts: $140 Million
Sandra Bullock: $200 Million
Emma Watson: $60 Million
Meryl Streep: $65 Million
Liam Nesson: $45 Million
Matthew McConaughey: $70 Million
Halle Berry: 80 Million
Rosario Dawson: $16 million
Lucy Lui: $16 Million
Kerry Washington: $8 Million
Cicley Tyson: $10 Million
Kristen Stewart: $70 Million
Viola Davis: $3 Million
Gabourey Sidibe: $6 Million
Jada Pinkett: $20 Million

Perhaps more importantly though, is that you have an agent and manager, whose job is to accrue for your and their sake the most amount of money they can from the studio! You can say: My last film brought in x, Kristen Stewart is filming Twilight for 278,099, I want y, or I walk!

Given the number of women of colour in the industry, by the number or roles which are offered to them, the bargaining process is much narrower.

The women who don’t have the benefit of an agent or manager, for them its the following scenario:

• The average woman working in a sweatshop in Bangladesh for the company H&M makes 19 cents (USD) an hour. The McNuggets at a McDonalds in Bangladesh is 380 Taka ($5USD), quite outside the ‘affordable’ range

• Apple Sweatshop (China): $1.25/Hour

• Maquiladoras (Mexico, NAFTA-Ralph Lauren, Brooks Brothers) 65-70 Pesos a day $7-8 (USD) a day

• Minimum wage for unskilled workers in India: $2.46 USD. However, women labourers tend to be paid less than this mandated minimum

• Minimum Wage: NY 8.75, Texas: 7.50, New Mexico 7.25

Women make up 2/3 of minimum wage workers, leaving women thousands of dollars below the poverty line.
We can wait for the trickle down culture of white mainstream feminism to come cascading down on those women. A little more than a month ago, before this incident happened, we created a hash-tag #HerWorkHerRights. The point is to tell men to speak about their pay, so we know when women are being discriminated against.

Her work her rights- to send across the message of sexism, marginalization of women’s voices in the labor force and campaign for paid leave, maternal leave, and a fair work environment. So, we challenge Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, to use their agency to illuminate the working conditions of the voices of women who have been speaking up and standing up relentlessly to the violent conditions of forced and slave labor, for women being threatened with rape for unionizing, and the minimum and maximum deprived wage working women around the world.

It is time this discussion becomes a force of labour in action for a culture of equality and equity for every woman everywhere, now. #HerWorkHerRights.

You must be to comment.
  1. B

    You get equal pay for equal work, my friend. I don’t have time to dissect this article and reveal how cunningly the author has hidden that women want equal pay for less work, and often inferior work. Furthermore, why don’t feminists ever talk about the fact that men have to spend their entire lives earning for women, or that women always marry men earning more than them, men who are richer than them, men who are ‘well-settled’.

    Get rid of your hypocrisy and double standards.

  2. Batman

    Women don’t get paid less, but they should. Here’s why:

    I Don’t Want To Hire Women – Hear it from a feminist

    http://clarissasblog.com/2014/05/14/i-dont-want-to-hire-women/

  3. Monistaf

    While I could not agree with you more that modern day feminism seems to be extensively focused on extending the privileges of rich white feminists, I am still not sure why this is such a big issue when it comes to Ms Lawrence. Not all male actors are paid the same for lead roles in similar budget films. Their earnings are a factor of their popularity, experience, screen presence and most importantly their ability to negotiate. Women are equally capable in all those areas and as far as I can tell, indentured labor is outlawed in America, so if they are not happy with what they are paid, they can simply go elsewhere. Instead, they want to complain and feel entitled to just be given what the lead male actors are paid. Sounds more like privilege and entitlement to me. The top two persons in your own list are Sandra Bullock and Julia Roberts, both, women. So, it seems like they are doing alright. In modeling for instance, men are paid a tenth of what a female model makes. Female models are worth more because they attract more of an audience and sell more merchandise and consequently, get paid more, and no one seems to be complaining. It only seems to be a problem when women earn less. So, you want men to freely share what they make, in violation of most, if not all, corporate policy, just so women can be paid the same. Why is it that they cannot do their own research to determine what they are worth and just negotiate their compensation with their employers? Or are you saying that they are not capable? Is this why Reditt CEO Ellen Pao banned salary negotiations because she felt that women, in general, are more afraid to negotiate their salaries when compared to male counterparts?

  4. Jigsaw

    We need equality but men must pay at the restaurant, movies, dates, and dinner. Men must pay for their girlfriend’s clothes, perfumes, and accessories. Men must buy them chocolates, rings, and flowers.

  5. B

    Even with women’s privileges and advantages, all they ever do is complain. Equality is only applicable when it works in favour of women.

    http://check-your-privilege-feminists.tumblr.com/post/95979451581/i-dont-understand-how-are-you-not-a-feminist

  6. The Joker

    Feminists To-Do List
    – abortion
    – emails
    – do something fun (get abortion)
    – 2pm meeting (abortion)
    – abortion coffee with friend
    – abortion

    1. Blimp

      Unfortunately they didn’t get to you in time for an abortion.

  7. Spider-Man

    From modelling to acting, women indulge in skin show to compensate for lack of talent.

  8. Blimp

    I like how these pathethic mangrian trolls here all have superhero avatars and do nothing but complain about women. Who the hell even asked you to get involved with women if you have such a problem? Did someone put a gun to your head to get married? If not shut the hell up. Wage gap real. And the patriarchy is evil. Get used to it.

    1. Monistaf

      @Blimp – Who exactly is complaining about the wage gap? And, why may I ask, should we “shut the hell up”? Have you heard of a fundamental human right called Freedom of speech and expression? You think the wage gap is real, you are entitled to your opinion and are allowed to voice it, some of us here don’t, but we should “shut the hell up”? I personally do not agree with your point of view, but I will defend your right to voice it. The question is whether you will afford the rest of us the same privilege, or anyone who disagrees with you should just shut up!! Get real and may be people will start taking you seriously.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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