International Woman’s Day: Gillian Anderson, and the war for wage-equality

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Why on earth is pay disparity between men and women in Hollywood still a thing? It’s insulting that it’s still occurs in today’s society, but what is more insulting is it happening to someone that already had to deal with this inequality twenty years ago.

On the original run of 90s sci-fi phenomenon The X-Files (1993-2002), Gillian Anderson was paid less than her male co-star David Duchovny for several seasons, even being asked in the first few episodes of season one to stand a few feet behind Duchovny on camera (which thankfully, Anderson did not abide to at all). Anderson told The Daily Beast, “I have such a knee jerk reaction to that stuff, a very short tolerance for that shit. I don’t know how long it lasted or if it changed because I eventually said, ‘Fuck no! No!’ I don’t remember somebody saying, ‘Okay, now you get to walk alongside him’. But I imagine it had more to do with my intolerance and spunk than it being an allowance that was made.”

At the beginning of the series in ’93, Anderson was 24 years old with little acting credit to her name. Duchovny, on the other hand, was in his early 30’s and had already starred in Twin Peaks for three episodes and had a handful of film roles – including Kalifornia alongside the likes of Brad Pitt and Juliette Lewis. One could draw upon inexperience for why FOX didn’t pay her the same as Duchovny in the first season of the show, but by the fourth season Anderson had already shown her worth, taking home an Emmy and a Golden Globe for her portrayal as Dana Scully. Scully became an icon for women everywhere at the time, and as of now. She was a strong, no-nonsense woman who saved Mulder more times than Mulder saved her. She was an intelligent scientist with a good shot, with her story arcs carrying equal weight as Mulder’s. She was in control of her life, and made women feel empowered in the process.

Anderson says, “I can only imagine that at the beginning, they wanted me to be the sidekick. Or that, somehow, maybe it was enough of a change just to see a woman having this kind of intellectual repartee with a man on camera.” By the pilot episode she showed that she was no mere sidekick. But even then, it took her three years to close the wage gap between her and Duchvony that the studio had put upon her.

To imagine that in 2015, twenty odd years after Anderson stood her ground and fought for equal pay between her and her co-star, she would be offered less than Duchovny to reprise her role in the X-Files revival is absurd. “I’m surprised that more [interviewers]haven’t brought that up because it’s the truth,” Anderson told The Daily Beast. “Especially in this climate of women talking about the reality of [unequal pay]in the business, I think it’s important that it gets heard and voiced. It was shocking to me, given all the work that I had done in the past to get us paid fairly. I worked really toward that and finally got somewhere with it.

“Even in interviews in the last few years, people have said to me, ‘I can’t believe that happened, how did you feel about it, that is insane’. And my response always was, ‘That was then, this is now’. And then it happened again! I don’t even know what to say about it”.

Thankfully, the studio retracted their unequal offer to Anderson and paid her the same amount as Duchovny to reprise her role. The distressing and downright sad thing here is that not only is the wage gap still prevalent in the Hollywood society in 2015/16, but that it happened to a woman who had already won.

A woman that showed other actresses that if you fight for it, you can get the equal pay. And even that is tragic in itself. Why should actresses have to fight for it? Why should any woman have to fight for it?

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A film student stuck in a 90s timewarp of FBI agents, UFOs, conspiracy theories, alternative rock and grunge.

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