Octavia Spencer is an Academy Award Winning Actress: So Why Did A White Woman Have to Help Her Earn More
by G. Brown
Actress Octavia Spencer is singing the praises of her friend and movie ” The Help” co-star Jessica Chastain .
Speaking recently at a Sundance 2018 panel on ‘Women Breaking Barriers’, Spencer shared a story of how Chastain stood for her to help her get a pay boost. Chastain called about a year ago and the two started talking about the pay gap between men and women in a chat that escalated to “dropping F-bombs” and demanding that it’s time for things to change. They were on one accord, until Spencer shared this revelation-“Here’s the thing, women of color on that spectrum we make far less than white women. So if we’re gonna have that conversation about pay equity, we got to bring the women of color to the table.” Spencer says Chastain grew silent-“She had no idea that that’s what it was like for women of color.” At this point, Spencer breaks down in tears overcome with emotion recalling how her friend vowed to fight to insure that they both would be paid the same on their next joint project.
It’s a tender story of two friends that in ways echoes the movie they starred in about life as a Black woman versus that of a White woman. But as the sentiment wanes, there’s one question that nags-‘Why does an established actress of Spencer’s calibur need a White woman to go to bat for her to earn more money?’ Both women are about the same age(Chastain 40, Spencer 45) , both have won Golden Globes and multiple Academy Award nominations. But Spencer actually won an Oscar, has acted in 47 films to Chastain’s 32, acted in 45 TV roles to Chastain’s 11 and Spencer is an author and has achieved all this while overcoming dyslexia! So why in the name of everything holy with these credentials does Spencer need a White woman to go in and speak on her behalf? For the same reason that this is true.
We can applaud Chastain for doing the right thing as soon as the pay gap problem was brought to her attention. But the fact that she wasn’t aware of a problem at all is part of the problem of White privilege. No one has to tell Blacks that we will often be treated unfairly in school, at work, by banking institutions, by police. Black privilege is being born knowing that inequality based on the color of your skin exists.