opinion

Hey Scarlett Johansson, it's not 'obnoxious' to talk about the pay gap. It's crucial.

Scarlett Johannsson earns more money in a minute than I probably will in a lifetime.

She has money. You know it, I know it and she knows it.

ScarJo knows none of us will ever earn what she does. And she doesn’t want to talk about it, she doesn’t want to acknowledge it and she certainly doesn’t want dwell on it.

And if the story stopped there, it would be okay. It’d be lovely, in fact.

A rare dose of self-effacing modesty and self-awareness that doesn’t come in leaps and bounds in Hollywood. It would be an anomaly in a world where money is indispensable and dollar bills fall from pockets.

So when ScarJo told Cosmopolitan this week that it would be “icky” for her to talk about the pay gap given her fortunate position, it would almost be okay. Almost.

To be specific, she told the magazine, "there’s something icky about me having that conversation unless it applies to a greater whole".

“I am very fortunate, I make a really good living, and I’m proud to be an actress who’s making as much as many of my male peers at this stage.

“I think every woman has [been underpaid], but unless I’m addressing it as a larger problem, for me to talk about my own personal experience with it feels a little obnoxious,” she said. “It’s part of a larger conversation about feminism in general.”

I understand where ScarJo is going with this. What does she really know about inequality? Of course, being wealthy doesn't immediately disqualify you from feeling pain and having money and having problems are certainly not mutually exclusive.

But inequality? Not so common for someone who is rumoured to have earned an estimated $17.5m for her upcoming action thriller Ghost in the Shell.

The issue here doesn't lie in the fact that Johansson earns as much as she does, or the fact she doesn't believe she is paid less that her male counter-parts. Because it's probably true.

The issue isn't even that Johansson wants to have this conversation as part of a "greater" and more inclusive "whole". I mean, hell, it's a little refreshing to hear a high-profile woman admit that feminism is a conversation she wants to be a part of.

The issue right here is that Johansson can acknowledge the fact she's paid the same as her male counter-parts "at this stage". At. This. Stage.

Call me pedantic, but that logic seems a little flawed.

It's saying that yes, inequality exists, and yes, many women around me are paid less then their male-counter parts, but at the moment it doesn't affect me. So I will wait until it does, and then I will speak out.

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And that's the thing that bothers me the most. That Johansson can see the pay gap shit-storm raining around her, but wants to stand in the middle with her million-dollar umbrella, refusing to shield anyone else.

I do believe Johansson had the best of intentions. And I do believe that when push comes to shove, she would stand up and talk about the pay gap like it deserves. Because her comments during the week suggest she actually does want to be a part of this conversation.

Watch Mamamia's Jamila Rizvi talking to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten about issues affecting women today. Post continues after video...

But she needs to be an example, too. And if she doesn't yet have personal experience, she needs to talk about experiences of those around her.

Johannson needed to stand up in that interview and say, yeah, I have money. More than you'd know. But that doesn't mean the pay gap doesn't affect people like me, and will continue to affect people like me. And I am one of the few people with a voice and giant platform to talk about that.

For her, it's not about the money. But if we are real about the whole thing, it's not really about the money first and foremost anyway, is it?

It's about being recognised as just as valued as the male sitting next to you, doing the same job. It centres on the notion that just because I was born a female does not mean my worth as a worker, and a human being, is less than yours.

It's about the money, but it's symbolic more than anything.

What Johansson does in refusing to talk about this from her own experience, or even the experience of the actresses around her, is discredit others who have spoken about this before her.

The Jennifer Lawrence's of the world have stuck their neck out and called out Hollywood for the massive discrepancy in pay between men and women. Women like JLaw who have risked being called "obnoxious" and braced the "icky" conversation for the greater good.

It's not just about them. It's about all of us.

ScarJo may not have experience in this yet, but that's not cause to ignore its existence. And it's not cause to exclude yourself from the conversation.

Johansson needs to understand that the money is a big part of it, but it's not the only part of it.

And that's why, rich or poor, we need women consistently talking about it.

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