Debunking The Hollywood Wage Gap Myth

The state of America in 2017 is such that even when a man attempts to defend the myth that is the insistence that gender pay gaps exist, he gets torn apart by the radical feminists waiting in the weeds to attack every slip of the male tongue or pen.

Even those men who subscribe to the bastardized narrative that women make, all things being equal, less money for the same hours worked or job completed cannot escape the tyranny of the modern feminist. This is particularly true in Hollywood, a sphere in which millionaire women find it necessary, imperative even, to complain about the plight of the ‘old, rich, white men’ that are, according to these women, on a crusade to suppress female wages.

Anecdotes such as these serve as the basis for most arguments which posit that women are systematically oppressed:

“As a negotiator. I tend to feel overly protective toward my female clients, who are underselling themselves, whereas men very rarely question their own qualification and assume they are entitled to the maximum that can be gotten. They tend to ask more about what other people are getting, and I spend much more time persuading them not to dig in on irrational positions. Women tend to feel they need to deserve what they’re getting. I had a conversation with a woman who had three job offers. I pushed her to go for a 100 percent pay increase over what she had been offered. When I told her that they had accepted, she was in shock.”

You’ll notice I didn’t say ‘facts such as these’ as a precursor to the above excerpt. That was no mistake, as you will find few non-manipulated statistics that support the narrative of women in Hollywood being financially oppressed. Even the above anecdotal ‘evidence’ does not serve as evidence of any sort. It’s clear that the anonymous woman cited in this story was held back only by her own hesitance in requesting a salary she deserved.

Since when does one’s lack of assertiveness and conviction in their own professional value constitute ‘systemic sexism,' as the same opinion piece asserts?

The author piles straw man argument upon straw man argument to directly state that men somehow have mentally beaten professional insecurity into women and that they therefore are the reason women cannot effectively negotiate for their salary:

“Sexism isn’t just men sitting around twirling their moustaches talking about how women are only good for cooking, cleaning, sex, and babies. It’s all the ways in which women are taught that they are worthless.”

Unsurprisingly, she broaches none of the overt behaviors that men supposedly employ in their degradation of women’s self-confidence and worth.

It’s a flawed logical argument, but more importantly, it is presented without even the most manipulated statistics. This woman is proving her own lack of persuasiveness, ignoring a tenet that would serve her well, ironically, in a negotiation: if you want to prove your point, it is wise to be armed with some form of tangible measure of value, preferably statistics.

In case you think I’m cherry-picking, here is another example she used as the basis of her argument:

“The men were willing to overreach, while the women didn’t. The way I justified the imbalance was that I went on maternity leave twice. I had other things going on. There was a woman at the company who would check up on who was in their office at 7 p.m. It was always the guys who were still there, because they didn’t have to go home to their families. When I left for another company, the woman I worked for gave me a big raise, but I pushed for more, because a man at my level was making more. She told me to drop it. I think there should be some sort of standards for pay, and I think women need to be better to women. Women say that they are, but they aren’t. Men take care of each other. Women don’t go on rafting trips together. They aren’t tribal like that.”

Not only is this story incoherent in its intended point, it doesn’t even pass the believability test. How did she know that the man, who she says has the same position, was making more money than her? Who asks a new coworker, or any coworker, their salary, particularly when women are supposed to be too timid to ask for their own deserved compensation?

Again, this anecdote proves nothing and contributes to the greater nothingness which her article is based upon. Not stats or even a compelling wealth of examples proving clear discrimination. Nothing.

So, I will use this flawed argument as a cautionary tale while posing my own, contradictory assertion: as is the case in the real-world, statistics show that the narrative of the gender pay gap in Hollywood is not provable, and therefore cannot be said to exist. This isn’t a scientific theory, in which some factors are not observable. When it comes to discussions of gender-based pay scales, the evidence is there, and to ignore it in favor of your preconceived narrative is to refuse to make a valid argument.

To be fair, instances in which feminists have cited ‘statistics’ have not gone so well:

“No, Gal Gadot Isn’t Making 46 Times Less Than Henry Cavill…A viral, misleading stat about Henry Cavill’s Man of Steel salary doesn’t say as much about the Hollywood gender wage gap as it seems.”

Quite the contrary is true, according to a Hollywood insider with knowledge of the negotiating process:

 “Entry-level actors in franchise films are paid an initial rate. As a franchise takes off, they stand to make more money,” adding that Gadot’s cited $300,000 salary was merely a base figure, and that if she has movie-performance incentives built into her contract (as most actors do), “she was paid at least as much as he was.”

So, you’re telling me that it is experience level and proven box-office success that determines an actors’ salary, not solely their gender?

Color me shocked that even Hollywood executives expect a proven track record and a film’s success as key factors in an employee’s compensation.

A further accounting of Hollywood contracts shows that gender alone can never be cited as the sole determinant of one’s pay

“Hollywood contracts are notoriously complicated things—salaries are often sweetened by box-office bonuses, bumps in pay for sequels, or even “points” on the total gross for megastars.”

As it turns out, the person who started the ‘Gal Gadot is Underpaid Because She is a Woman’ narrative did predictably little research on industry norms, including the blueprint for first-time superheroes:

For superhero franchises just getting started, though, the process is usually simple: find a star on the rise, pay him or her relatively little, and then offer more if the franchise takes off. Marvel pioneered the effort with Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, and Chris Hemsworth, all of whom were reportedly paid less than $500,000 for their first solo superhero outings but eventually landed much bigger paydays for subsequent entries.”

Gal Gadot is nothing in Hollywood if not a relative newcomer, yet people who see themselves as reasonable apparently think she should be raking in Leo money. If you begin your assessment of equal pay with such unrealistic standards, one is bound to see sexism in every case in which a woman is paid less than a man.

The female extra playing a zombie in one scene of a single Walking Dead episode makes 1/100th of a male leading actor? Must be sexism.

This type of illogic is all that persists when one throws considerations such as merit, name recognition, box office success, and the differing negotiation abilities of Hollywood agents to the wind.

Numerous ‘official’ organizations further the myth of gender pay disparities in Hollywood through the same means that such data is calculated as it pertains to non-acting professions. Instead of considering mitigating factors such as maternity leave, choices in film/professional field, and other variables that significantly skew the data, they simply calculate the total salaries of men and women and call it a day.

This is not only extremely lazy- it is laziness with malice. When it is used to push the narrative that women in America are second class citizens, it is destructive to society and an under-informed populace that takes such ‘statistics’ as irrefutable facts, forming negative opinions about men as a result.

Fair pay comes down to negotiation. Balance in Hollywood, or any industry for that matter, will result in instances of women making more than their male counterparts, and vice versa. Just as the onus is on a male actor to negotiate his salary and make decisions according to their value within a particular film, women must take stands and negotiate their own value before entering into an agreement.

As is the case with lawyers, accountants, and other private sector employees, your value depends on a number of factors including sustained success, uniqueness of skill set, earnings garnered for your employer, and yes, how well you or your representative negotiate.

Some actresses, Jessica Chastain for example, understand this:

“What I do now, when I’m taking on a film, I always ask about the fairness of the pay. I ask what they’re offering me in comparison to the guy. I don’t care about how much I get paid; I’m in an industry where we’re overcompensated for the work we do. But I don’t want to be on a set where I’m doing the same work as someone else and they’re getting five times what I’m getting,” Chastain said.

She’s spot-on. But it is the responsibility of the female actor and her representatives to peg their value realistically, and to take professional stands if they feel underpaid. Don’t accept roles without asking about compensation and complain after the fact about some vendetta against women in Hollywood.

The best women are indispensable in any industry. This is particularly true in Hollywood, where diversity of cast has been shown to be a factor in a movie’s performance, for the better. The time to capitalize on this leverage as a female actor is in the pre-contract negotiations. If you believe in your skills, bank on yourself and play hardball, as Chastain does.

Statistics on Hollywood salaries are difficult to parse for true conclusions, with much of this having to do with incentive-based contracts and varying film budgets.

However, it is clear to most rational people that a star such as Scarlett Johansson or Jennifer Lawrence have clout that studios are willing to pay big bucks for. But they must negotiate, and they have to take the initiative during negotiations. As is the case in any industry, you will get lowballed if you allow yourself to. Employers don’t simply hand money over because they are feeling generous, you must work for your paycheck before, during, and after the negotiation process.

In 2016, Jennifer Lawrence ranked 6th in terms of highest paid actors. Melissa McCarthy, known for her rotund form of comedy and decidedly anti-Hollywood demeanor, was ninth. Notably not in the top ten: Leo DiCaprio, Will Smith, Brad Pitt, Matthew McConaughey and countless other male stars.

Sure, more men than women graced the top-30. But 10 women did make the list. And they earned their spot on the list, just as the men did. Through hard work, box office results, smart negotiation, and their own merit.

Not by complaining about the mythical Hollywood pay-gap.

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