By Maya Pottiger
The apparent “Fourth Wave” of feminism has spread to Hollywood, but is that enough?
Earlier this month, the three highest paid actors on the Big Bang Theory took $100,000 pay cuts to lessen the wage gap between the show’s leads. Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Kaley Cuoco, Kunal Nayyar and Simon Helberg took chunks out of their own paychecks so Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch could receive raises.
Bialik (Amy) and Rauch (Bernadette) joined the cast later than the original five, their characters not coming into play until the show’s third season. While their five castmates are making upward of $1 million per episode, Bialik and Rauch’s salaries remain in the $200,000 range, according to Variety.
However, even with the five each cutting $100,000 from their paychecks, that only brings Bialik and Rauch to $450,000 each, which is still a large gap.
Robyn Muncy, a women’s studies professor at this university, said she thinks this “surprising and bold move” will generate publicity for the gender wage gap.
This isn’t the first time the wage gap has been brought up on such a public platform. Last March, five members of the U.S. women’s national team filed a complaint that accused U.S. Soccer of wage discrimination. When Germany’s men’s team won the World Cup, they were awarded $33 million, whereas the U.S. women’s team was awarded only $2 million when they won the following year, according to the Huffington Post.
At the 2015 Oscar awards, Patricia Arquette used her Best Supporting Actress acceptance speech to address the gender wage gap.
“To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights,” Arquette said in her speech. “It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”
However, while these high-profile calls to action have drawn attention to the issue, Muncy said she thinks this issue goes past individual action.
“My own interest focuses more on equal-pay-for-comparable-work laws like the one that Massachusetts passed about a year ago and on raising the minimum wage,” Muncy wrote in an email.”
The bill Muncy highlighted was designed to strengthen the original pay equity legislation Massachusetts put in place 70 years ago when it became the first state to pass such a law. The bill clarifies “comparable work” and allows employees to openly discuss their salaries with each other without being reprimanded by employers, amongst other things.
Since its implementation in Massachusetts last year, cities in California, New York, Pennsylvania and Mississippi have all proposed or adopted similar legislations.
“In my view, these kinds of moves are much more important to achieving pay equity than tapping individual men to share their wages with their lower-paid female co-workers,” Muncy wrote.
Luke Jenson, the director of this university’s LGBT Equity Center, agreed that passing legislation is a vital step toward lessening the gender wage gap.
“The main point of legislation is to empower individuals to use the court system, essentially, to go back and say, ‘no, I’m not being treated fairly,’” Jenson said.
However, women aren’t the only group that faces an inequality in their paychecks. Before the Equal Opportunity Act, employers could discriminate against employees based on their race, sexual orientation or religion, amongst other things.
“There is actually a pay gap for gay men, as well, so I’m not being paid as much as a straight man,” Jenson said. “These issues are never as clear cut as either this or that.”
Though the gender wage gap has been addressed on both low and high platforms, in sports and Hollywood, and in the nation’s capital, talking about it may not be enough.
“There are lots of ways to approach any social justice issue, and talking about it is certainly an important way, but it’s usually never enough,” Jenson said. “I think what tends to get traction is when people get really creative about new and different ways of bringing attention to an issue. What those ways are, I don’t know, but someone out there does.”
Featured Photo Credit: Feature photo courtesy of BagoGames on Flickr.
Maya Pottiger is a senior journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.