For every step forward there’s always a step back elsewhere. Despite what history can teach us and how far we’ve come, to realize we’re repeating the same mistakes regarding equality leaves me lacking faith in humanity as of recently. It’s really sad to think we are quick to sit in judgment of past eras for their treatment and persecution of others and yet in times like these, upon reflection, I can’t help but feel we will more or less be remembered in a similar light. While we’re not a generation that introduced this inequality, we’re something more despicable: a generation that knew it was happening yet enabled it by sitting idly by and doing nothing.
African Americans are being shot because they’re black, individuals from the Middle East are treated suspiciously by default, or with outright bigotry, and women are still regarded as inferior because of their gender. For all our retrospective arrogance we’re too ignorant for our own good; we can’t identify the reality that in spite of history we are yet to learn a god-damn thing.
What’s worse is it’s our own doing. Once upon a time the inferiority of women was simply an assumption but now it’s a deliberate act of degradation. We’re stripping away their strengths and re-defining them objectively in the name of profit and self-satisfaction. It’s risen to the surface so elusively in some areas (i.e., the music industry) that it’s now ingrained and has become the norm. And now that skewed normality has seeped into other industries.
I’m not saying women can’t celebrate their sexuality without it being inevitably tawdry, in fact I believe in the exact opposite. But at some point this became less than a black and white issue, and now every interpretation of a woman identifying with herself sexually has been defined as solely a debasing act by those around her. Respect and degradation are antonyms in every sense, but admittedly it’s the men who have a hell of a hard time distinguishing between the two these days. It’s not only stagnated our progress but it’s sending us backwards.
This ignorant lack of respect on a personal and professional level is neither growing nor re-emerging after a period of dormancy. It’s always existed, it’s just the perpetrators have been selective in their chronicled history, which is all the more insulting considering Hollywood have always taken pride in positioning themselves ahead of the curb. Now the truth has come out, and it’s shown just how far behind they’ve truly fallen.
So it’s hardly a surprise that what kicked off this whole saga was an email leak detailing the rampant sexist attitudes towards women in the film industry, as well as the pay gap on not only the set of American Hustle but at Sony Entertainment. No do-gooders blowing the whistle of the casting calls focusing purely on appearance, and not a scrap of honesty in sight. The damning evidence isn’t the evidence itself but the manner in which it was revealed.
But there’s a silver lining to that cloud, because those who deem this unsatisfactory have found their voice, and they’re now using it. Patricia Arquette stands on stage, an Oscar in hand, giving the film industry one hell of a serve, while Maggie Gyllenhaal steps up and exposes the kind of gender bias that’s gone unchecked for so long. But when you consider that this age-gap in on-screen romances dates back as far as 1999’s Entrapment, in which a then thirty-year old Catherine Zeta-Jones exudes nothing but sexuality while falling for the then sixty-nine year old Sean Connery, you suddenly realise it’s been hiding in plain sight this whole time.
We’re all in agreement that something must be done, but who’s standing up? I don’t see any men in the film industry placing themselves at the forefront in unity with Patricia or Maggie so it begs the question: how ingrained is this ‘men and men first’ mentality and how much work is needed to eradicate it? To paraphrase The Year Of Living Dangerously I say Hollywood: pay your women, but that’s just a band-aid; this wave of exploitative sexism runs much deeper than that. Even if greater percentages are negotiated it’s still going to take some time to eliminate this disparity that’s invaded film, music and many other industries.
A united front is required, from both men and women who are on either side, victim or offender, but diversity (one of the few things this world can attempt to pride itself on) has made this harder than ever before. But all a movement needs is one figure, someone the rest of us can look up to. Sure, it’s not happening in one fell swoop but when you consider that the modern age treats celebrities as omniscient beings the film industry is one of the best places to start. All they need is someone willing to put themselves out there and, as has already been demonstrated, the dam will break. Hell, it’s already started cracking.
In hindsight it’s been nothing but hypocritical conceit from us when we look at history. One has to wonder if we’ve traveled back in time, but the honest truth of it is there is no past tense when it comes to the issue of inequality. We are yet to move on from this antiquated notion that women are gratifying objects with no identity and it’s making our current world nothing to write home about. It’s going to have history remembering us for all the wrong reasons, but if we step up and change things we may just be a generation worth remembering. It’s about damn time we stood for something, and this just might be it.
Until then it’s a matter of same shit, different day.