The gender pay gap is a real problem in Hollywood, and not even world-famous, Oscar-winning actresses are immune.
It’s such a top-down issue that Emma Stone has revealed her male co-stars have accepted pay cuts just to ensure she’d be compensated fairly.
Stone recounted her experiences with pay inequality in an interview with Out while promoting her new movie Battle of the Sexes, about the famous tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs.
In my career so far, I’ve needed my male co-stars to take a pay cut so that I may have parity with them. And that’s something they do for me because they feel it’s what’s right and fair. That’s something that’s also not discussed, necessarily—that our getting equal pay is going to require people to selflessly say, “That’s what’s fair.” If my male co-star, who has a higher quote than me but believes we are equal, takes a pay cut so that I can match him, that changes my quote in the future and changes my life.
In the movie business — as in just about any business, where salary negotiations are done on an individual, blind basis — it’s refreshing that Stone was able to talk to her male co-star(s) about this sensitive topic in the first place. And that those co-stars were subsequently willing to sacrifice their own paychecks to ensure she’d get the same money is, indeed, noble.
But this isn’t exactly common practice, as Stone’s own Battle of the Sexes co-star Andrea Riseborough pointed out in the same interview:
I don’t know how many films I’ve been in—20, 25 films, something like that. And I’ve never had the experience of a guy taking any sort of pay cut.
And there’s no way to know who these un-named male co-stars are, or whether their “pay cut” went into Stone’s quote to even things up, or just brought the guys down to her level (thereby lining the pockets of some producer or lessening a faceless studio’s bottom line).
Which is why we’ve got mixed feelings on this.
Not every man will agree to a pay cut. What then?
Men accepting pay cuts in the name of parity can be helpful on a case-by-case basis. It’s a concrete gesture that allies can take to support their female friends and colleagues, and by Stone’s own admission, it’s made a big difference in her career.
However, not every woman will feel comfortable asking male colleagues to sacrifice their paychecks, and not every man will agree to do so. What then? This pay-cut scenario is a temporary patch that’s helped Stone, and hooray for that. But let’s not mistake it for a solution.
As for what a system-wide solution would look like — look, if an answer were so easy and obvious that we could figure it out right here, right now, Hollywood would’ve figured it out by now.
Perhaps, though, it starts by taking for granted the notion that female actors deserve to be paid as much as their male co-stars. Riseborough mentioned that even when she’s asked for raises, “There’s this underlying feeling that you should be grateful.”
King chimed in:
Oh, yeah, we’re supposed to be happy with the crumbs. I talk about that in my speeches—that women deserve the cake, the icing, and the cherry on top as well, just like the men. So let’s go for it.
In other words, let’s stop thinking that a woman demanding equal pay necessarily comes at the cost of her male peers, and see it for what it really is: plain, everyday, common-sense fair treatment.