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.
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.