The conversation about Hollywood’s pay gap has been urgent and mounting, but it’s also been largely impersonal, focusing on statistics and a few famous women (understandably) reluctant to comment on the size of their paychecks.
In a bravely honest essay for Glamour, actress Judy Greer lays bare the institutional sexism that leads to the entertainment industry’s gender gap while providing a firsthand account of what it’s like to live with the knowledge that you’re getting paid less than your male colleagues because of your gender. “In the past few months, I’ve become convinced of one thing: If I were a man, I’d be paid more,” says Greer, adding, “I am terrified to be deemed ‘difficult,’ and I don’t think I’m the only woman with that fear.”
Here are some choice quotes from Greer’s essay, which is well worth reading in full.
On wondering how her career might be different if she were a man:
“My career is fulfilling, and I’m happy. But sometimes I wonder: In a parallel universe where I did everything the same but happened to be a man, would I be more successful? Would I have to hustle less? Could I eat carbs? (OK, now I’m dreaming.) In the past few months, I’ve become convinced of one thing: If I were a man, I’d be paid more. I realize that some people may not sympathize with an actress who gets to be in movies and on TV for a living. But if you take away names and vocations, the fact is that in 2015 a man is still getting paid more money to do the same job a woman does, in Hollywood and everywhere else. And no matter where you live or what you do, that’s bullshit.”
On the underlying issues that lead to Hollywood’s pay gap:
“The parts available to me as a woman are usually smaller and harder to come by. This problem spans the industry—the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University found that among the top-grossing films of 2014, only 12 percent of the jobs for actresses were considered ‘leading roles.’ With such slim pickings, women are rarely in a position to negotiate for higher salaries. (Or, as my manager despairingly puts it, the studios can always find someone else who needs a job.) The salary documents released in the Sony hacking scandal proved that even leading women—giant movie stars like Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams—still earn less than their male counterparts. How many Oscar nods and billion-dollar grossing franchises does a girl have to get before she’s paid equally?”
On why waiting forever for the perfect project to drop into her lap isn’t a realistic option:
“Sometimes I get mad at myself for not demanding more. I idolize Charlize Theron, who reportedly negotiated a $10 million raise after she discovered she was making less money than her male costar on ‘The Huntsman.’ I know that’s what actresses—and all women who want equal pay—are supposed to do, lest we give our employers the OK to carry on as usual. ‘People want to work for less money, I pay them less money,’ said the former Sony CEO Amy Pascal in February. ‘Women shouldn’t be so grateful…. Walk away.’ But that seems unrealistic for me. Acting is my job. I have to pay for my life somehow, and I still need gas and food and the occasional blowout. I could, of course, refuse work that won’t pay as well, wait for the perfect project to come along, and then hope and pray that it’s a financial and critical success. But that means I would be willing to work less, earn less, and wait for results that are totally out of my control. How is that really a choice?”
On why she’s choosing to take a stand now:
“Until now I’ve been afraid to speak up. I was raised to never talk about money, so I never ask for more. I am terrified to be deemed ‘difficult,’ and I don’t think I’m the only woman with that fear. But a few years ago, I was lucky enough to become stepmom to a wonderful girl (a woman now; she’s 18), and I’d like to be an example for her. I hope that in whatever profession she chooses, her hard work will be considered just as valuable as anyone else’s. So it’s time for me to talk about this. I may not be able to single-handedly fix the pay gap, but I can open my stepdaughter’s eyes to it. I can encourage her to negotiate, ask questions, and stand up for herself. I can remind myself to try that too.”
Greer currently co-stars on FX’s “Married” and is the author of “I Don’t Know What You Know Me From: Confessions of a Co-Star.”