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The wage gap between the male and female actors in Bollywood is obscenely huge. This is despite comparable work and talent.
Differences in wages based on gender exist throughout the world. They are better documented and quantified in some countries and industries than others. The gap exists based on various stereotypes and assumptions such as women are less competent, likely to leave jobs for families and children, men need to make more money to support their families etc as well as economic and business set ups geared entirely towards men. Women also do a disproportionate amount of household chores and caregiving, which are not valued in traditional economics. South Asia has the dubious distinction of having the world’s most skewed gender wage gap. India is among the top 20 countries with the highest percentage gender wage gap.
Still not convinced? Let us take a quick look at Bollywood. Conventional success in Bollywood means obscene amounts of money. But the obscene amounts made by male stars exceed those by women stars. This is even as movies become more women-centric (think Queen and Mary Kom) as opposed to women playing only suffering and supporting roles as mothers, wives, sisters and daughters. This disparity is in no way limited to Bollywood. Patricia Arquette, who won an Oscar for the best-supporting actress role, used the stage to make a plea for wage equality for both men and women in Hollywood. While her comments are not entirely clear of controversy and don’t account clearly for intersectionality of gender and race, they do put forth the reality of these industries.
When the Sony servers were hacked, there was a lot of outrage some of which was directed at the pay disparity between Jennifer Lawrence (and Amy Adams) and her male co-stars for the movie American Hustle. This is not unusual except for the fact it is one of the few times the difference is well-documented and available for people to see.
The Khan trio (Aamir, Salman and Shahrukh) as well as Akshay Kumar make 400 million rupees per film on average. Actresses such as Deepika Padukone and Katrina Kaif make one-tenth of that amount on average per film. Actresses have started to speak out about this disparity in amounts paid. Aditi Rao Hydari has addressed the issue: “I don’t really understand why we are paid less than the male actors because we put equal efforts and recent past has shown that actresses can deliver a hit film. We deserve better pay, equal to what actors get”. The gap has started to reduce as more women-centric films are made and are increasingly popular with audiences. But lists of richest Indian celebrities have lots of men but very few women. There is a long, long way to go to remove the wage gap in Bollywood. If this is the scenario in an industry that is so often in the public eye, think about what the situation is like in other industries. Accurate and exact statistics about wage gaps are hard to get because reporting salaries is often voluntary and data isn’t available for all sectors. But we do know for sure that women are typically paid less than men for the same work. This has to change.
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I think of myself as a feminist development practitioner with a strong interest in issues
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