One night not too long ago, as my family sat down to dinner, my 1st-grade son told me that he’d learned a new “F-word” at recess. Oh boy, here we go, I thought, as my eyebrows shot up in alarm.
I was about to launch into a lecture on appropriate language when he interjected.
“Feminist,” he said. “Tucker said that if you’re a feminist then you hate boys. Is that true?”
Our dinner convo instantly took a sharp left as I tried my best to craft an age-appropriate discussion around just what that particular “f-word” really means.
In the end, I think I did just fine. But after reading Robin Wright’s latest interview with Net-a-Porter’s EDIT magazine, I’m kinda thinking my kid-friendly feminism lesson could have been a whole lot simpler.
The interview was conducted by none other than Shirley Manson, front woman of the the band Garbage. And it wasn’t long before their conversation turned to the topic of feminism.
“People need to look up the definition of that word again,” Wright shared. “Feminism is just equality.”
And there you have it, folks — the simplest definition of feminism … ever?
Wright made headlines and sparked a national debate about equal pay earlier this year when she discovered she wasn’t making the same salary as her co-star, Kevin Spacey, on their hit Netflix drama, House of Cards. So she demanded a raise.
“I was told that I was getting equal pay and I believed them,” she shared, “and I found out recently that it’s not true.”
Wright even laid out the numbers: She was making $420,000 an episode compared to Spacey’s $500,000. And while $420,000 an episode isn’t a shabby paycheck, Wright went on to explain just why it was so unfair:
“Claire and Francis are equivalent as far as their power, their union and the plot,” Wright shared, of her character and Spacey’s. “I may not have as many scenes or words as Francis, but Claire doesn’t need to verbalize as much. Francis is an orator, a poet, a demonstrator. Claire is an [ego] that sits in the back and directs him, but they are partners on the same plane.”
In the end, she got what she deserved. Vanity Fair reported last year that she won her bid for equal pay “through a combination of logical tactics and firm negotiation after the show had been airing for several seasons.” Wright now enjoys the same payment per episode as Spacey, making her stance on feminism ring ever so true: feminism is just equality.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the right of employees to be free from discrimination in their compensation is protected under several federal laws, including the Equal Pay Act of 1963, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
According to the EEOP’s website:
“The law against compensation discrimination includes all payments made to or on behalf employees as remuneration for employment. All forms of compensation are covered, including salary, overtime pay, bonuses, stock options, profit sharing and bonus plans, life insurance, vacation and holiday pay, cleaning or gasoline allowances, hotel accommodations, reimbursement for travel expenses, and benefits.”
Basically, this means that shorting a woman’s pay based on her gender is illegal, but it still happens in nearly every industry because not all salaries or wages are easily known, so it’s not hard for employers to look the other way and shortchange their employees based on gender.
While that may sound maddening, there is some good news. According to the Pew Institute, the wage gap is narrowing considerably. In 2015, women made 83 percent of what men made, which translates to an extra 44 days worth of work in order to catch up. That number is quickly heading toward 90 percent and shrinking fast, thanks in part to the growing national discussion surrounding equal pay.
When my son asked me if being a feminist means hating boys, I had to cut through all the layers of what that statement implied, and give it to him straight: “Girls and boys are different,” I told him, “but they should always be given the same rights.”
No, feminism doesn’t mean that girls hate boys, or that women hate men.
It means that all of us deserve an equal playing field — especially when it comes to the hard work we do — and that’s a right no one should ever be allowed to deny us.