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In attempting to devalue Mo’Nique, we show how little we value Black women — how little we value ourselves.

By Jodi M. Savage Comedian Mo’Nique recently asked viewers to boycott Netflix because they only offered her $500,000 for a comedy special. The Oscar-winning actress pointed out that they had offered Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle $20 million and Amy Schumer $11 million. Mo’Nique claimed that Netflix had offered her such a low amount due to gender and color discrimination. Instead of widespread support, she faced a lot of backlash on social media. People were engaged in the all too familiar sexist, racist, and self-hating tactics of making negative comments about her weight and skin color. Many hurled bombs at her that are frequently used to silence Black women and dismiss our humanity: loud, angry, no class, entitled. Others said she should be humble, prove herself, and just be grateful Netflix was willing to help revive her career. They also accused Mo’Nique of having a “bad attitude,” the classic trope for Black women who do not offer up cupcakes and smiles when criticizing how others treat them. It was the responses from Black people that I found most troubling. Black women were among her harshest critics. Maybe it’s hard to feel sympathy for Mo’Nique because most people can’t relate to an entertainer who wants more than $500,000 — but many of these criticisms also contained an unsettling subtext about who gets to assert worth in the workplace and acceptable ways of asserting one’s worth. To suggest that Mo’Nique should just be “grateful” and accept Netflix’s offer is to disregard her accomplishments, her sense of worth, and her right to demand that she be fairly compensated. It also ignores the very real pay disparities for Black women in and outside of Hollywood. In attempting to devalue Mo’Nique, we show how little we value Black women — how little we value ourselves. Most Black women will never be offered $20 million or $500,000 to do anything. But Black women should care about Mo’Nique’s pay discrimination claims because, in many ways, we are all Mo’Nique. Whether we are actresses, secretaries, corporate executives, nurses, or restaurant workers, we are more likely to earn less than our white or male counterparts. Black women earn 63 cents for every dollar a white man makes. Black women are also the least likely to ask for raises among all demographic groups except Asians. We know how pay disparities play out in the workplace for regular folks: being lowballed in salary negotiations; getting hired and then realizing that people with similar or less responsibilities, experience or job titles earn more; being given additional responsibilities, but no salary increase; and not negotiating for a higher salary or raise.
Related: OCTAVIA SPENCER’S PAY GAP WIN IS AN ACT OF RESISTANCE AGAINST WHITE SUPREMACY

Let’s be clear: Jessica Chastain helping Octavia Spencer is not the biggest story here.

By Candice Frederick When I attended the fantastic “Women Breaking Barriers” panel at Sundance Film Festival recently, I wondered if a very pivotal moment in the conversation that centered on equality, the #MeToo movement, and creating spaces for women of power in Hollywood would even be mentioned in mainstream publications. Why? Because the moment came from a black woman, Oscar-winning actress and friend in my head Octavia Spencer, who was amid a conversation about the much-discussed pay gap in Hollywood when she interrupted the status quo to simply state, “If we’re going to talk about the pay gap, we have to bring women of color into the conversation.” Mic drop. I tweeted about it at the time, and it barely got any traction, which I thought was interesting but not unsurprising. All the conversations and think pieces I’ve read about the pay gap in Hollywood have failed to mention that there’s not only a wide difference between men and women’s salaries but also between white and non-white actresses. https://twitter.com/ReelTalker/status/954843747291836416 Because it seems to be easier to set white women’s challenges as the default for all women in Hollywood, rather than acknowledge any nuance particularly when it comes to race. But, flash forward nearly a week afterward and it was finally covered by mainstream media, and in fact it has become the lead story from the panel. Though, in a way that merely glazes over the main issue. Being one of the very few women of color journalists in the room listening to Spencer as she followed this statement with the now famous story of how her friend Jessica Chastain “walked the walk” to help her now earn 5 times her salary was significant. Spencer was emotional, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I too was and remain moved by Chastain’s selflessness and diligence to fight against the status quo in Hollywood even though it was not something that directly impacted her. To Spencer’s own admission, Chastain didn’t even know this was an issue. So, bravo. That is what an actual ally looks like. But let’s be clear: Chastain helping Spencer is not the biggest story here. Spencer spoke out about a singular issue affecting women of color in a very white feminist space that until that point offered a very broad perspective about some of the important issues that women face in Hollywood. It was a poignant pivot in front of a mostly white crowd that was left virtually silent as she told her story. That is nothing to sneeze over. Perhaps only if you have ever been a woman of color in a white space speaking out about a very specific issue about which most of the room cannot fathom, could you understand how boss this was. Spencer didn’t sound angry (though she would have had every right to be). She didn’t sound sad. She was very matter-of-fact about it, determined to express something that to me and many other women of color is our everyday as we navigate white supremacy. And it is usually ignored, discarded, and undervalued in general feminist dialogue.
Related: EXCLUDING DEE REES DURING AWARDS SEASON IS PEAK WHITE FEMINISM

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