Six top actresses say having more women in power could change the culture of abuse in Hollywood: “Whenever you have one demographic that’s in charge of the livelihood of another, you’re going to have abuses of power,” says Jessica Chastain.
Emma Stone, Jennifer Lawrence and more top actresses say not enough is being done to ensure equal pay between men and women working in Hollywood.
As part of a candid discussion for The Hollywood Reporter‘s Actress Roundtable, which also included Mary J. Blige, Jessica Chastain, Allison Janney and Saoirse Ronan, the group of top actresses spoke up about their experiences and suggested that achieving equality could have an impact on the culture of harassment in Hollywood.
Stone pointed to an “amazing article” penned by actress Brit Marling “that was essentially saying, if women were paid equally in every industry, this would not be occurring. Women have had to fit into these different boxes for so many years just to get work, and if these things are happening and they bring them to people’s attention, they are much more likely to be fired or to be dismissed than a man in a more powerful position. So it’s a huge conversation for our industry, but I would hope that this is only the tipping point for us to discuss equal pay for equal work for women across every industry.”
Following the publication of the Roundtable discussion, Stone added: “After seeing our Roundtable conversation in print I realized I need to elaborate my oversimplified response to part of the issue of harassment being pay inequality. While true to a big extent, I don’t think my response was as clear as I hoped it would be. Equal pay clearly wouldn’t fix ALL of the issues surrounding abuse of power, violating behaviors and much more. The Brit Marling article I referenced at the beginning of this quote is a deeply intelligent and not at all oversimplified look at this issue at large.”
Lawrence expressed hope that the culture of abuse can change.
“I hope eventually,” she said. “I think it’s going to be a while. It’s deeply ingrained, unfortunately. It’s kind of this social proof in some way of your masculinity.”
Added Chastain: “Whenever you have one demographic that’s in charge of the livelihood of another, you’re going to have abuses of power.”
For her part, Blige said she previously made a conscious effort to more like a tomboy due to her experiences when she was younger.
“Because I’ve been through so much as a child and a teenager, I just wore baggier jeans and Timberlands and hats turned backward,” she said. “It took me a very long time to even wear makeup and tight clothes because I had been through so much.”
Lawrence added that she has had experiences in which she’s stood up for herself on set, only to wind up being made to feel as if she’d done something wrong and was called “difficult and a nightmare.”
“I’ve had this happen: I finally made the decision to stand up for myself, and then I went to go to the bathroom at work and one of the producers stopped me and was like, ‘You know, we can hear you on the microphone, you’ve been really unruly.’ Which was not true, but basically my job was threatened because the director said something fucked up to me and I said, ‘That’s sick, you can’t talk to me like that,’ and then I was punished, and I got afraid that I wasn’t going to be hired again.”
Stone noted how her most recent movie, Battle of the Sexes, which was set in 1973 and focused on gender inequality — in the sports world — but it’s a topic that’s still being talked about today, more than four decades later. “We shot Battle of the Sexes in the spring of 2016, so when it comes to our political climate, there was still a lot of hope happening,” she said. “It was fascinating because it’s a historical event, it happened in 1973, and now we’re here 44 years later and the depressingly relevant facts of the film are very tough to look at. There have been strides made — women can get their own credit card without a male signing for it, which you couldn’t in 1973. … But there’s such a long way to go. We’re still getting paid less than men across every industry.”
Chastain argued that the reason that women are not being offered more roles behind the camera comes down to the bottom line.
“A lot of the problem in terms of wage equality, but also in terms of [female] writers and directors coming on to projects, starts at the agency level,” she said. “I now have a production company, and I’m asking [my agents],’Can you guys send me a list of writers?’ And it’s all men. I’m realizing that they’re going to submit the writers that have the higher quote because they get a percentage of the quote.”
She added that after her work on Zero Dark Thirty, which earned her an Oscar nom, she still wasn’t being offered the same pay as her male counterparts.
“I don’t understand — if you’re a very successful agency and they know what everyone is making on the film — how an agent is OK with you making a third of your co-star’s salary,” she said. “After Zero Dark Thirty, I was sent a lot of scripts where it was a female protagonist, and they wouldn’t do my deal until they knew who the male actor was because they needed to do his deal first and then see what was left over.”
Chastain added that she’s decided to start fighting for pay parity when it comes to signing on for projects. “[F]rom now on, if someone has something they’re bringing to me, great, let’s do my deal [now],” she said. “But also, if someone is showing up for three weeks of a two-month film, they’re not getting paid more than me.” For her part, Lawrence spoke up when it was revealed after to the Sony hack that she’d gotten paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle, admitting, “It’s much easier for me now to be paid fairly.”
Following the news, she penned an essay for Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner’s Lenny newsletter, writing: “When the Sony hack happened and I found out how much less I was being paid than the lucky people with dicks, I didn’t get mad at Sony. I got mad at myself.”
In THR‘s roundtable, Lawrence explained why she felt like she had to be vocal about the pay disparity.
“The reason I spoke out about it was really — we’re in the industry, everybody is looking at us, if we’re going through this, every woman in the world is going through this,” she said. “But the real problem is the normalization of it. It’s the reason why your agents don’t think twice about paying you a third of your [co-star’s paycheck] because it’s been so normalized for so long.”
Meanwhile, Janney noted that being on a TV show — CBS’ Mom — where the two leads are both female raises another question: “We’re like, “Damn, we don’t know how much we’re not getting paid!”