Why Benedict Cumberbatch’s stance on gender pay equality matters

Sophie Hunter and actor Benedict Cumberbatch at the launch of Patrick Melrose in London.
Sophie Hunter and actor Benedict Cumberbatch at the launch of Patrick Melrose in London.

It’s no secret that the gender wage gap is a problem we’ve been grappling with for ages. From every day positions to high-profile actors, women everywhere have been consistently underpaid for doing the same work as their male counterparts.

But it’s not just that – the level of inequality is even worse when you consider women of colour, which is why when we see celebs in privileged positions taking a stand in the fight for women’s rights, we can’t help but sit up and take notice.

According to Bustle.com, in a recent teaser interview clip with Radio Times, actor Benedict Cumberbatch revealed he’ll only take on roles if his female costars are paid equally. It’s a bold move in an environment that has always seemed to be more lip service than action.

By publicly making this announcement, he is committing to something that he cannot back out of. And based on his views on feminism, we doubt he will.

He reveals in the interview that he considers equal pay one of the “central tenants of feminism,” and in a call out to his fellow colleagues he asks them to look at the quotas and ask if their costars are being paid the same. He also encourages them to turn down roles if they do find that their female colleagues are being paid less.

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This comes on the back of Cate Blanchett and Ava DuVernay, who, according to Buzzfeed, along with 82 women led a protest at the Cannes Film Festival to call for “equal pay, safer working environments and more diversity in the film industry.”

It’s clear that when it comes to issues of inequality and lack of diversity in any industry, one of the biggest ways to make a stand is not only to call for action using your privileged platform, but to take direct action.

Granted, fixing years of sexism, inequality and gender disparity is not going to happen overnight, but people like Cumberbatch who position and prove themselves to be staunch allies in a movement that sadly becomes excited whenever a lone voice steps out of the void and into the spotlight to highlight the issue, make things that much better.

But, when it comes to allyship, all hope is not lost just yet.

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Image credit: Getty images

Earlier this year, Octavia Spencer revealed during a Sundance TV panel, that fellow actress Jessica Chastain fought like the champion she is to help Octavia earn five times the amount that she and Jessica signed up for in a project that they are working on.

According to Vanityfair.com, Spencer said she loves Chastain because she is not only “walking the walk, but that she’s also talking the talk.

While discussing the film idea, Spencer revealed that the subject of the gender pay gap came up and said that while both were railing against the disparity of pay, Chastain became quiet when Octavia explained how much harder it was for women of colour, who earn even less than white women.

Jessica decided then and there that she was going to ensure that Octavia would get the amount that she’s worth and together they’re now both earning the same amount for the project, which is as previously mentioned, five times more than the amount that Spencer said she’s normally used to.

That is how you do intersectional feminism.

WATCH: Debra Messing Calls Out E! During Red Carpet for Gender Pay Discrimination

If folk like Cumberbatch and Chastain can use their voices for marginalised groups, then hopefully it will set an example for other big stars in Hollywood to fall in line and follow.

And small steps in a big world like Hollywood creates ripple effects. Just like celebs whose red carpet looks often dictate what’s fashionable and what isn’t – active change can surely then flow into industries where ordinary citizens can also benefit.

No, we shouldn’t wait for Hollywood to make a stand in order to create change, but it sure goes a long way in helping.

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