Viola Davis on Hollywood Gender Pay Gap: "I'm the Black Meryl Streep ... Pay Me What I'm Worth"

Meryl Streep Viola Davis

The Hollywood gender pay gap dates way back to medium's infancy, even Marilyn Monroe had a hard time with it who was even payed less than her makeup artists for the 1953 film "Niagara." For all the awards love we see at this time of the year, when it comes to equal gender pay Hollywood has yet to make considerable strides to fix the problem. Forbes even had a study which showed just how "grossly underrepresented and underpaid," as compared to their male counterparts, women were in film, and television alike. It's of course, not just in the film industry that this is happening, gender pay gaps are present across all industries. However, just like the #MeToo and TimesUp! movements, artists in Hollywood know just how influential their actions could be for the rest of the workplace.  And so, already actresses like Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence and Viola Davis have spoken out about the unfairness of it all.

Back in February of 2016, Viola Davis was interviewed by Mashable and had this to say about the gender pay gap in Hollywood: "I believe in equal pay, first of all. I’m sorry, if a woman does the same job as a man, she should be paid the same amount of money. She just should. That’s just the way the world should work. What are you telling your daughter when she grows up? ‘You've got to just understand that you’re a girl. You have a vagina, so that’s not as valuable.’ What are you telling her?"  Two years later the 52-year-old actress is at it again and this time she's as militant as ever, not only speaking as a woman, but as an African American, two severe handicaps when it comes to equal pay in Hollywood. During a "Women in Hollywood" convention on Sunset Boulevard, she had this to say:

“What they’re getting paid — which is half of what a man is getting paid — well, we get probably a tenth of what a Caucasian woman gets. And I’m No. 1 on the call sheet,”
The “How to Get Away With Murder” star went to a more controversial comment, comparing her 
career to Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, Sigourney Weaver and others:

“I got the Oscar, I got the Emmy, I got the two Tonys. I’ve done Broadway, I’ve done Off Broadway, I’ve done TV, I’ve done film. I’ve done all of it,” she said. “And yet, I am nowhere near them, not as far as money, not as far as job opportunities. Nowhere close to it.”

Despite all the accolades and awards Davis has received over the years, she even won an Oscar for her supporting turn in "Fences," she adds that she still has to "hustle" for every job, and frequently receives the same answer from studio bigwigs and talent scouts:

“People say, ‘You’re a black Meryl Streep. You are. And we love you. We love you. There is no one like you,'” she said, “OK, then if there’s no one like me, if you think I’m that, you pay me what I’m worth. You give me what I’m worth.”

Those are some fighting words from Viola and, although a comparison to Meryl Streep is a far stretch, Streep has 21 Oscar nominations compared to Davis' 3, we are in total agreement about her arguments here. It's a severe problem that has inflicted almost every industry in the United States. Patricia Arquette eloquently summed it up to The Wrap last year by stating:

"Look, inequality is in 98 percent of all industries, so I’m not surprised it’s still in Hollywood. That’s just part and parcel with what’s happening across the nation. A lot of studios are actually really making it a priority. There’s incremental changes as far as Hollywood goes."

Yes, she is right, we have seen change, but not enough. The countless examples are just so many that it hasn't even become a question of "is it really happening," but rather "how do we stop it?" The answer to the latter is still very much part of the activism and fighting being brought in by all the aforementioned actresses in this article. With many powerful men being ousted by sexual misdemeanor allegations left and right these days, I would expect that a domino effect would surely leak into more favorable pay for women as they, cross your fingers, start to incrementally gain more power over these next few months, years, maybe decades? One only hopes that to be the case.

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