In an interview with Variety about gender pay gap among actors, Sandra Bullock recalls being mistreated on a movie set 10 years ago, which she describes as “the worst experience I ever had.”
While addressing the money issue that actors are finally talking about openly (most prominently, Jennifer Lawrence), Bullock told Variety that she thinks a more important conversation than pay is the overall unequal treatment of women in her industry. Bullock says:
“It’s a bigger issue than money. I know we’re focused on the money part right now. That’s just a byproduct. I keep saying, ‘Why is it that no one is standing up and saying you can’t say that about a woman?’ We’re mocked and judged in the media and articles. Really, how men are described in articles versus women, there’s a big difference.”
Bullock also brings up the red carpet conundrum that some actresses and activists have pushed back against with campaigns like Ask Her More:
“I always make a joke: ‘Watch, we’re going to walk down the red carpet, I’m going to be asked about my dress and my hair while the man standing next to me will be asked about his performance and political issues.’ Once we start shifting how we perceive women and stop thinking about them as ‘less than,’ the pay disparity will take care of itself. There’s a much bigger issue at hand. I’m glad Hollywood got caught.”
I’d argue that both of these conversations can happen simultaneously and converge with solutions, but sure, congrats to the movie business for starting to recognize its inequities.
Bullock goes on to mention a movie shoot that opened her eyes about the way women in Hollywood are viewed:
“I was actually doing a film about 10 years ago, and I found myself yelling and being angry. And I was like, ‘What is happening to me?’ I was literally fearful. And I realized, it’s because I’m female. It dawned on me. At that day and age, at that point in my career, it was the worst experience I ever had.
“I was destroyed, because you can’t unsee something. Was I so naïve up to this point to actually think that I was on an equal level with everybody? It was the way I was being treated, because I was female, versus the way others were being treated. It took me a while. It took a year and a half, where I regrouped, and thought, ‘Okay, this is an isolated case.’ I’ve had other subtle experiences, but nothing that blatant. It was a big eye opener, because it wasn’t just men on women. A lot if came from women as well. The blessing of that film was that it opened my eyes.”
While she doesn’t mention which movie, Miss Congeniality 2, Loverboy and Crash all came out around that time.
Bullock adds that, like many actresses, she was forced to suck it up and deal with the sexism:
“Only like 1 or 2 percent of us get to do this job. I’m not money oriented. I lucked into money most of the time. But money is the byproduct of everything. How do you explain to your son that the ERA hasn’t passed? I want him to think I’m the boss and women are equal, but I can’t really support that in the outside world. I hope in my lifetime, for him, everything is a level-playing field.”
On the other side of this is Kate Winslet, who’s much more dispassionate about the money talk—calling it “a bit vulgar”—and seems to think that not speaking up about pay issues will somehow lead to a magical fix.
“I don’t think that’s a very nice conversation to have publicly at all,” she told BBC. “I’m quite surprised by these conversations to be honest, simply because it seems quite a strange thing to be discussing out in the open like that. I am a very lucky woman and I’m quite happy with how things are ticking along.”
Good for you, and not for other women and not white actresses who don’t have the same privilege. Winslet says, “I find all this quite uncomfortable. I haven’t ever felt that I’ve really had to stick up for myself just because I’m a woman.”
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