Women in Entertainment: A New Day

By Charlotte Kramon and Cece Sterman

Gender relations has always been a sensitive topic in the entertainment industry in a wide range of areas. In the last couple years, the dialogue about gender inequality in the entertainment business has skyrocketed. The Girl Talk Magazine got the opportunity to speak with women about their experiences in the business.

According to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, as only 18 percent of writers, producers, directors, and other entertainment employees are female. People rarely discuss their salaries, but recently more women have discovered that they are getting paid significantly less than their male counterparts. Women have always had to deal with sexism, misogyny, and harassment in their workplace, but since the Weinstein allegations have come out, more women are telling their stories.

Countless actresses having complained of obtaining roles that fail to portray women as the smart, intelligent characters we are capable of being. Fortunately, this is changing. With a push in film and television for more empowering female characters, actresses like Kim Raver and Gal Gadot express feeling privileged in being cast as strong female characters. However, an unbalanced atmosphere where strong female characters are underrepresented still persists.

Cece Sturman from The Girl Talk Magazine spoke with Faith Salie, a host, comedian, journalist, and writer, who has worked as an actress since she was 13 years old. “When I was an actor, I took roles that didn’t demonstrate my self-worth, intelligence or feminism,” she said. “But I took those roles with gratitude, because I wanted to work.”

The necessity to be employed has historically shut women and minorities down from taking any action against inequality not only in the roles they are assigned, but in the way they are treated. When asked if she ever had to report cases of sexual misconduct, Salie said reporting such behavior “wasn’t applicable in the most overt case: when my 65 year-old talent agent stuck his tongue down my throat when I was 25.”

Salie isn’t the only woman who felt reporting misbehavior was pointless. At Miramax, Harvey Weinstein’s behavior was dismissed with the statement, “That’s just Harvey.” In a separate case, an anonymous female producer tells of working on a project with a young female writer. The writer approached the producer sobbing and shaking, explaining that she had worked with one of the men involved with the project a little while back. He bombarded her with inappropriate sexual texts and physical advances. She was terrified to work with him again, but feared losing her job. Thus, she never reported his behavior.

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In response to sexual misconduct, Oprah, Natalie Portman, and several other actresses initiated the #TimesUp movement, which prompted actors and actresses to attend the Golden Globes wearing all black as a symbol of unity and solidarity. A stand-out speech was given by Oprah Winfrey, who declared, “I want to express my gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault because they, like my mother, had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue.”

While objectification in the entertainment industry has recently come to light, it is also rampant in the modeling industry as well. Model Sara Sampaio reported being pressured to pose for nude pictures by French magazine ‘Lui,’ and despite refusing to pose for such photos, they managed to use sneaky photography tricks to overly expose her body. They continued to use those images on their cover. She recently decided to speak out about her experience through social media, and a lawsuit is pending.

Although there is a current spotlight on sexual assault, it is not the only discriminatory practice that penetrates Hollywood. The pay gap between men and women is another challenge that persists in entertainment. Another female producer explains how she and her male partner recently started a production company with a top network. Despite them having an equal role as company executives and the female producer having more experience in the industry, she was told her salary would be less no matter how much she negotiated.

When Kevin Spacey was replaced by Mark Wahlberg in drama “All the Money in the World” upon allegations of sexual assault, it was later reported that Michelle Williams (who was nominated as best actress at the Golden Globes) was paid less than Wahlberg. The Washington Post quoted USA Today, which reported that Williams got paid $80 per diem, and less than $1,000. This was less than 1 percent of Wahlberg’s $1.5 million earnings which resulted from his team negotiating a reshoot fee. Although the two actors share an agency, they did not step in to support Williams.

Jennifer Lawrence wrote in Lena Dunham’s “Lenny Letter” that when the Sony hacks happened and she learned about how much less she was receiving than male actors, “I got mad at myself. I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early.” She maintained her silence because she didn’t want to appear “difficult” or “spoiled.”

The gender biases in the entertainment industry will take a long time to reverse. With actors, actresses, producers, writers, and other active members of the entertainment industry speaking out against discrimination, there is more motivation to eliminate inequality. As Oprah said at the Golden Globes, “I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon!”