Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Hollywood Hunger Games, Take 2

In my last piece, I had just begun to scratch the surface of my Oscar issues, but I was on a self-imposed deadline and had to get it done. But now that the nominations have been announced (which I will address soon enough), I wanted to finish a few of my incomplete thoughts about the pay issue that Mo'Nique raised.

So Mo'Nique is an Oscar winner, not just another nominee. Mo'nique might be a pill to work with, but so far I haven't seen a lot to prove that, other than the fact that she's not working that much these days. And perhaps that is the reason why Netflix wanted to showcase her talents, to give her a chance at a comeback. Yeah...

I am not a Mo'Nique fan (I hated that show The Parkers), but I am big on fairness and what I'm reading and seeing is a lot of unfairness at her expense. I can accept arguments that she is a diva, but so is Mariah Carey and I bet nobody would low-ball her in spite of her spotty performance record of late. So what gives?

Thus, I return to an earlier point that I raised earlier, which is for all the activism and toppling of heads going on in Hollywood these past few months over sexual harassment, the next frontier is pay equity. I cited the recent example of Michelle Williams, but did not get to mention Wanda Sykes because her struggle is actually where the rubber meets the road, in my opinion. Because if a working actress/comedian like Sykes who has name recognition, is currently working on a hit TV show (while doing voiceovers on cartoon shows), and who also happens to be an activist got offered less than this guy to do a comedy special...then we've got a long road ahead.

One of the articles I read in relation to the pay gap issue cited the curious case of Emma Stone, another Oscar winner whose male co-stars have reportedly taken pay cuts on her behalf. There have been recent headlines about the ongoing negotiations involving Golden Globe winner, Tracee Ellis Ross (also on blackish) with respect to her pay. These are not unworthy women asking for something they didn't earn, so again it begs the question--what do these awards mean if women have to go through so many changes to reap financial benefits on par with their male peers?

While dissing Mo'Nique for being messy and loud, we're just reinforcing sexism at its basic level, which is also about limiting a woman's economic determination. In addition to the physical and emotional damage inflicted when a woman stays on a job to maintain a standard of living in spite of hostile working conditions, she is also expected to be grateful for the opportunity to be offered less money than someone else for the same work. So everyone who is out there taking pot shots at Mo'Nique for refusing to compromise for the sake of a paycheck, explain to your daughters and nieces exactly why sexism persists.

BECAUSE WE ACCEPT IT. We rationalize it. We uphold it. And we find any number of ways to discredit the women who fearlessly stand up instead of joining their challenge to the status quo! Y'all are quick to criticize white women's feminism (which is fair game in certain respects, though not in all), but don't recognize the short-comings of our own internalized oppression. Mo'Nique put in the damn work to win that Oscar, and the fact that it was nearly ten years ago does not negate that truth. Remember when Dave Chappelle fled to Africa nearly 15 years ago? But he can make a joke about what he did and it is worth $20 million. Ok.

For the record, I don't have Netflix, so I guess I'm participating in the boycott by default. And I am hopeful that more actresses (and athletes, and CEOs, and women working in Silicon Valley) will speak out against pay inequity like Patricia Arquette did in 2015 (even if it was inartful, clumsy, and self-serving) because that is how the Time's Up message will transcend beyond attire worn on the red carpet, water cooler gossip, and social media activism.

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