From Jennifer Lawrence to Emmy Rossum, more and more actresses are speaking up about the gender pay gap in Hollywood and demanding their fair share. A new interview with Rose Byrne, however, raises an interesting point: Why are actresses, rather than the producers who make the financial decisions, the ones being confronted with questions about equal pay?
The Australian actress, currently starring with Oprah Winfrey in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, was “somewhat surprisingly, reluctant to discuss” the issue of the gender pay gap during an interview with Britain’s ES Magazine, out today. When pressed, Byrne offered this explanation for her reticence.
“My decisions around what I do, why I do it, financially, are personal,” the Bridesmaids star told the magazine. “And I think those questions are really for the producers — why are you paying women less? I feel like actresses often get lumped with these questions, and it’s like, sure, there’s disparity, but you should ask the people in power — they’re the ones who have the responsibility and the power to change stuff.”
Byrne isn’t the first actress to take this tact. When it emerged that American Hustle ‘s Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams had been paid less than their male costars — news which emerged in 2014 from the Sony email hack — Lawrence responded by penning an essay that expressed her anger. Adams, however, saw her interview with Today get pulled when she told show producers that she’d prefer not to address the controversy on air. Last year Adams elaborated on her stance in an interview with British GQ.
“The truth is we hire people to negotiate on our behalf, men and women… I knew I was being paid less and I still agreed to do it because the option comes down to do it or don’t do it. So you just have to decide if it’s worth it for you. It doesn’t mean I liked it.”
Byrne is right that producers and the people who make the call on who gets paid how much and why should be held accountable. It’s reasonable to be uncomfortable about discussing your salary, which, as she notes, is a very personal matter. The flip-side is that speaking up isn’t merely about defending her right to earn equal pay; it helps gives a voice to the countless women who are paid less than their male counterparts.
Byrne may not be talking about money, but she is taking action. She and female friends have formed The Dollhouse, a collective that includes writers and directors developing women-driven stories.
‘The only films that the studios are making are about robots and cars; it’s all The Fate of the Furious,” she said, adding that films that portray women as “nagging” girlfriends are “a bit misogynistic.”
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