Doctor Strange is making some really important magic happen in Hollywood.
Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays the Marvel superhero doctor, is getting vocal about equal pay and calling on all men in the industry to make sacrifices when their female counterparts aren’t given it.
In an interview with Radio Times Magazine on May 13, 2018, he laid out one simple way men can make sure female co-workers behind the scenes are being treated and getting paid equally.
“Equal pay and a place at the table are the central tenets of feminism,” he told the magazine. “Look at your quotas. Ask what women are being paid, and say, ‘If she’s not paid the same as the men, I’m not doing it.'”
The internet was pretty stoked about Cumberbatch’s statement.
Cumberbatch is no stranger to standing up for what’s right. He’s used his platform to speak out against the British government’s abuse of civil liberties, went off on world governments for not doing more to help Syrian refugees, and participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise funds for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) awareness. In short, he’s been a bit of a superhero long before his Marvel days.
Given the pervasive pay gap between men and women in Hollywood, Cumberbatch’s bold statements are more important than ever.
Nationwide, women make about $0.85 to a man’s dollar. In Hollywood, women are often paid less than their male co-stars even in cases when a woman plays a leading role.
TV host, actress, and producer Oprah Winfrey spoke eloquently about challenging the status quo in an interview for the Time Firsts project. Winfrey discussed recognizing the pay inequality as she was leading her talkshow, “Oprah.” New to the industry herself at the time, she wanted to make sure her employees — many of whom were women trying to find their way in the industry — were being paid equally. She approached a producer who was reluctant about raising salaries for the young women.
“He actually said to me, ‘They’re only girls. They’re a bunch of girls. What do they need more money for?'” she explained. “I go, ‘Well, either they’re gonna get raises, or I’m gonna sit down. I will not work unless they get paid.’ And so they did.”
Cumberbatch’s production company, SunnyMarch, is largely run by women and aims to produce and support more female-focused dramas.
“I’m proud that [partner] Adam [Ackland] and I are the only men in our production company; our next project is a female story with a female lens about motherhood, in a time of environmental disaster,” Cumberbatch said. “If it’s centered around my name, to get investors, then we can use that attention for a raft of female projects. Half the audience is female!”
As a straight, white actor, Cumberbatch’s use of his privilege sets an important example for other actors in similar positions.
To achieve true pay equality in Hollywood, more male actors — particularly those who inherently have more privilege than others — should continue using their platforms and resources to support other women, make public calls for change, and use their networks to push for systematic change. Only then can we make true, systematic change from the ground up.