Thanks to the efforts of smart, powerful and capable women in the industry – Patricia Arquette, Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Watson, and Meryl Streep, to name a few – the gender pay gap debate, particularly in the last year, has become a major talking point in Hollywood. Actress Scarlett Johansson has become the latest to discuss her thoughts on the Hollywood gender pay gap but believes the conversation needs to be given a broader context. The discussion makes her uncomfortable, according to Cosmopolitan and she says her status as one of the industry’s highest earners makes it difficult to address the issue of pay disparity.
“There’s something icky about me having that conversation unless it applies to a greater whole,” she said. “I am very fortunate, I make a really good living, and I’m proud to be an actress who’s making as much as many of my male peers at this stage.” However, the latter comment may be true because The Avengers star insisted she be paid more for the film series. It was reported that when she negotiated her contract, she was the second-highest paid star in the Marvel franchise’s latest outing, earning $20 million for her role as Black Widow – less than the film’s lead Robert Downey Jr, but significantly more than any of her male co-stars.
“I think every woman has [been underpaid], but unless I’m addressing it as a larger problem, for me to talk about my own personal experience with it feels a little obnoxious,” she said. “It’s part of a larger conversation about feminism in general.”
Her comments echo that of fellow actress Jennifer Lawrence and her widely circulated Lenny essay in which she revealed that she “didn’t get mad at Sony, I got mad at myself“, for failing to negotiate a higher salary compared with that of her male counterparts. But like Johansson, she felt her career and life in the public eye put her at a disadvantage when compiling her argument.
“It’s hard for me to speak about my experience as a working woman because I can safely say my problems aren’t exactly relatable,” Lawrence said.
This is the latest revelation in the long-running debate, which has seen numerous actresses rally for equal pay. Though we hear of some attempts being made to lessen the gap, there is still a long way to go. Downey Jr’s Iron Man co-star, Gwyneth Paltrow, also weighed in on the issue, calling being paid less than a male counterpart “painful,” adding: “Look, nobody is worth the money that Robert Downey Jr is worth,” she said, “but if I told you the disparity, you would probably be surprised.”
We would argue that the issue is still a hugely important one, regardless of the fact that women in Hollywood have substantial careers and incomes. The wage gap is only indicative of a larger, pervasive problem: That women and men are not always treated equally, no matter the industry. According to The Guardian, it is estimated that women in media roles earn 85% of what their male counterparts take home, and that female stars tend to see their earnings drop after the age of 34 while men see a change after 51 – a significant difference.