Top Female Hollywood Exec on Gender Inequality: "I Guarantee Jeff Shell Will Not Be Worrying About Spanx, Hair and Makeup"
On the eve of awards season, an anonymous studio leader explains in an essay for The Hollywood Reporter how even equal pay can't make life fair for the fairer sex: "We should start by giving ourselves a break."
This story first appeared in the 2015 Women in Entertainment issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
A few weeks ago, the very intense and artistic cover of The New York Times Magazine ("The Women of Hollywood Speak Out") hit my desk, and if you are a woman working in the entertainment business, pieces like this are the equivalent of assigned reading — not exactly homework, but there is an implied understanding that to throw it on the heap next to your desk is a no-no. There have been many, many pieces like this lately: status reports filled with depressing statistics, tales of inequality and resentment and pleas for change — all very important and worth discussion certainly. But am I the only one who looked at that cover and had a slightly less noble reaction? Is it possible for a magazine article about equality to give someone an inferiority complex? While I was admiring everyone's profound thoughts, what I was really thinking was, "Oh my God, I didn't make the cut." Maureen Dowd talked to dozens of women, and my phone never rang. Nobody is interested in my deep-dish thoughts on the state of women in Hollywood.
But if Maureen hadn't lost my number, would I really have anything profound to add? (I mean, I spent the Thanksgiving holiday trying to figure out who had more screeners than me.) All this talk about our status, or lack of, made me think about what we're really asking for. Because if we're asking for equality, in terms of hiring practices, pay scale, etc., that is a no-brainer. Women can and should be paid exactly at the same levels as our male counterparts. This is not news, and the fact that it isn't a reality and we have been discussing it since the days of Maude is exasperating.
But I do not confuse equal with fair. And for a working executive wife and mother, nothing is fair. Is it fair that Tom Rothman never has to worry he's going to the wrong guy for Botox? Is it fair that Ari Emanuel isn't sitting in meetings wondering what time Trader Joe's closes and whether or not the dogs got walked? If one of Jim Gianopulos' daughters can't find her school uniform, do you think she calls or texts him at work? I doubt it. Because in addition to proving ourselves every day at work, women simply find themselves as the caretakers, and those around us as the care takers, meaning they will take as much care as we can give. And when it comes to certain parts of our lives, it isn't fair, and it will never be equal. As we head into the endless awards-season events, I can pretty much guarantee that Jeff Shell will not be worrying about Spanx, hair and makeup, etc. He'll throw on a tux, run a comb through his hair and head out to a world that will tell him how great he looks.
So maybe in our quest for equality, we should start by giving ourselves a break from the never-ending rules and standards that we hold ourselves to. I will start by not feeling too terrible that Maureen did not call me. But on the other hand, I haven't read all the scripts I was supposed to, and according to The Hollywood Reporter, I have the wrong purse and am using inferior moisturizer. … The list goes on and on. And let's face it: It isn't fair!
Read more essays from THR's Women in Entertainment issue: