Dee Rees Says Pay Inequality Has Been Going On Way Too Long Already

With the Time’s Up movement launching emphatically into the national conversation about harassment and sexism, the battle for women’s equality is more prominent than ever. From celebrities wearing black to the Golden Globes in January to the furore around the difference between Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg’s pay on the film All the Money in the World, Hollywood’s women have been bringing attention to various aspects of the fight. But Mudbound director Dee Rees wants everyone to remember that equal pay, in particular, is far from just a Hollywood problem.

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Fresh from picking up her Independent Spirit award in Los Angeles for Mudbound, Rees told press backstage that pay equality really needs to start with employers. “It’s going to come down to individual businesses and business owners to make it real, to have universal minimum wage,” she said.

The pay gap is definitely not a new fight for women and people of color, Rees added. “These aren’t new ideas,” she said. “We’ve been fighting for these things since the ’70s. People like Flo Kennedy, Dorothy P. Hughes—they’ve been fighting this fight for a long time now, so it’s great that we’re here.”

Betty Gabriel, star of Get Out, has been inspired to take action in support of women who don’t necessarily have a public platform. “It’s definitely something that I’ve always been aware of,” she told on the Spirit Awards red carpet. “We’re good friends, me and Alicia Garza [co-founder of Black Lives Matter and Special Projects Director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance], so I plan to do a lot of collaboration with her as far as working for domestic workers and farm-worker women. There’s a lot of people that need voices speaking out for them, as well as providing space for them to speak out to.”

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For now, conversation is certainly proceeding in Hollywood, an industry that by definition captures the spotlight, which could have a trickle-down effect and direct resources towards women who don’t have as large a platform.

Angela Bassett at the Maison-de-Mode dinner

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Speaking at the Maison-de-Mode dinner in Los Angeles later that evening, Angela Bassett told she is constantly horrified that the pay gap still exists. “It’s upsetting. It’s ridiculous. It makes no sense whatsoever. It says that the male is more important, is more valuable, and that’s not so. That’s not true. The work is important. Women, we work just as hard, and long hours as well. We don’t get shorter hours. And I think it’s just a standard that’s been upheld. For what reason, I don’t know. I’m glad that we’re breaking through that, at least in this town.”

For Rees, it’s not enough that women are fighting for their rights and talking about this issue. She wants young men to see and appreciate this, too, and help ensure that the future is a different place. “I hope that these conversations mean something to young men,” she said, “because as they see women that are running things, and they see women that are intelligent, it’ll change their ideas of what women are capable of, and how they should be treated. So I hope that helps young men and young women watching to have a different idea about how to lead the world.”

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