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Female stars say ‘no more’ – Gender gap

Left to right: Mia Maestro, Tomas Maier and Salma Hayek-Pinault attend the Hammer Museum Gala in the Garden in Los Angeles, California on Oct 10. (AFP)
Left to right: Mia Maestro, Tomas Maier and Salma Hayek-Pinault attend the Hammer Museum Gala in the Garden in Los Angeles, California on Oct 10. (AFP)

LOS ANGELES, Oct 11, (Agencies): Hollywood actresses bemoan pay disparity with their male counterparts, as well as the despised “casting couch” — where film executives sometimes make sexual advances before deciding who gets a coveted movie role. But some of Hollywood’s top female stars are saying “no more,” and are hailing this as a banner year for women in film.

Ashley Judd was the latest to join the chorus, telling Variety magazine “one of the industry’s most famous, admired” bosses — whom she declined to name — had lured her to his hotel suite in the late 1990s. She said that after it became clear that she would not return his sexual advances, he asked if she would watch him shower.

“I did not recognize at the time what was happening to me,” the 47-year-old actress said in the latest issue of Variety. “It took years before I could retrospectively evaluate that incident, and realize there was something incredibly wrong and illegal about it.”


Though Judd’s story is by no means unique, harassment of women in Hollywood is only the most explicit manifestation of their treatment as second-class citizens. Her story comes at a time when women in Hollywood are increasingly standing up for their rights, demanding better treatment and fair pay. “A lot of people are speaking out and the subject of sexism in Hollywood is trending,” said Jennifer Merin, head of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists.

“But that can be something dangerous as well because it can become a trend and then disappear.” The issue of pay disparity grabbed headlines last year after a leak of stolen emails from Sony Pictures Entertainment showed that Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence was paid less that her male co-stars in the hit movie “American Hustle.”

Patricia Arquette also railed against the industry’s gender-based wage gap during her acceptance speech after winning an Oscar at this year’s Academy Awards. Some of Hollywood’s highest profile stars, such as Meryl Streep, Emma Watson and Gwyneth Paltrow, also have chimed in, helping put the issue in the spotlight.

“Look, nobody is worth the money that Robert Downey Jr is worth,” Paltrow told Variety, speaking about her co-star in the movie “Iron Man.” “But if I told you the disparity, you would probably be surprised.”

According to Forbes magazine’s 2015 list of best-paid actors, Downey topped the list for the third year in a row earning a whopping $80 million. That’s nearly $30 million more than Lawrence, the best-paid actress, who raked in $52 million.

Kirsten Schaffer, executive director of Women in Film, an advocacy group, said that while the outcry over gender disparities in the film industry was gaining steam much still needed to be done before Hollywood’s glass ceiling is shattered.

“There are a lot more women in the last six months speaking out publicly against sexism,” Schaffer told AFP.

“But there is a lot of room for growth.” According to a report by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University in California, only seven percent of the top 250 movies in 2014 were directed by women.

Salma Hayek-Pinault blasted the ever-growing Hollywood gender gap in a stirring speech at Variety’s Power of Women luncheon presented by Lifetime on Friday at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons.

“We are the generation that said, ‘We’re not going away at 30,’” she said to uproarious applause. “They cannot ignore us anymore.”

Hayek-Pinault recalled fearing the move from Mexico to Hollywood only to be pleasantly surprised by the women she found surrounded with in the industry.

Women represent 50 percent of the population and 66 percent of the workforce, but “only get 10 percent of the income of the world,” said Hayek Pinault, who was introduced by her friend Jada Pinkett Smith as the “ultimate ride-or-die chick of Hollywood.” “This is really, really sad and tragic,” she said. “In the 20 years I have been an activist for women, I can smell the airs of change, especially in this industry for the first time.”

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