Actresses discuss equal pay and harassment: “People don’t speak up because they’re afraid they’ll never work again”

Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence
Six of Hollywood’s biggest actresses discussed equal pay and harassment at work for an actress roundtable.

In Hollywood Reporter‘s roundtable, Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Lawrence, Mary J. Blige, Emma Stone, Allison Janney and Saoirse Ronan all spoke about the workplace ‘culture of abuse’ and the gender pay gap.

Speaking about the recent sexual harassment allegations that have been rife in Hollywood, Jennifer Lawrence discussed how working in the entertainment industry acts as a ‘stage on which you can see the inner workings of problems all over the world.’

Comparing the stories to a scenario where a pilot sexual harasses a flight attendant, Lawrence explained that no one hears about most incidents because they don’t end up on the news.

That doesn’t mean that there’s less sexual abuse going on anywhere else in the world, in any other place of work.

But fortunately, we’re starting the conversation now.

Alison Janney, star of Juno and American Beauty, said the ‘casting couch’ was just something she thought women had to navigate at work.

But it’s exciting to think of a time where kids growing up won’t know what that is, that it will be a thing of the past, and there won’t be any more abuse of power.

It’s exciting to think of our culture changing.

Agreeing, Chastain echoed: “Society has a way of blaming victims: You didn’t come out soon enough or you’re not asking for enough money.

But the onus is on others not to abuse their power”

Hunger Games actress Jennifer Lawrence then told the roundtable a story about defending herself from a director who said something inappropriate to her.

I finally made the decision to stand up for myself, and then I went to go to the bathroom at work and one of the producers stopped me and was like, “You know, we can hear you on the microphone, you’ve been really unruly.”

Which was not true, but basically my job was threatened.. I was punished, and I got afraid that I wasn’t going to be hired again.”

Lawrence continued, …I was called difficult and a nightmare.

I think a lot of people aren’t coming forward because they’re afraid they’re not going to work again.

You need to be able to say, “This is wrong” and have somebody do something about it instead of saying, “Oh, it’s wrong? Well, you’re fired.”

Jessica Chastain, who co-starred with Janney and Stone in 2011’s The Help, said after she filmed Zero Dark Thirty, she was sent lots of movie scripts with female protagonists.

But, they wouldn’t do my deal until they knew who the male actor was because they needed to do his deal first and then see what was left over.”

Speaking about the wage gap, Lawrence said the real problem was that pay inequality has been ‘normalised.’

It’s the reason why your agents don’t think twice about paying you a third of your [co-star’s paycheck] because it’s been so normalised for so long.”

Read the full round table here.

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