• Israeli actress Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. (Warner Bros. Entertainment/AAP)
If we fight for the new Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot’s wage, this doesn't mean we are fighting for our an increase in our own pay, writes Helen Razer.
By
Helen Razer

22 Jun 2017 - 12:13 PM  UPDATED 22 Jun 2017 - 12:49 PM

Last week, I was chatting with a mate who is fasting for Ramadan. We were banging on, I think, about hair products, when the bootcut jean would make its return to denim, and, almost certainly, how difficult it is to make an Iftar dinner when a cook is unable to taste the food. Okay, I can’t recall speaking with Ameera about this matter specifically, but I do know that teatime is a pretty big deal for her throughout the holy month. She’s mentioned it during every conversation of every Ramadan of our acquaintance, so I have no reason to suppose she’d stopped thinking about delicious biryani that day.

At some point in our meandering chat, I asked her about an internet outrage. An Australian celebrity had said something terribly rude and embarrassing—please don’t ask me to recall which one, as this is now a regular occurrence. Ameera told me that it was her goal during Ramadan to think only charitable thoughts, ergo she avoided internet outrages which would only prompt her to uncharitably think that everyone in the world is a dill. “Besides which,” she said, “There is so little that celebrities can teach us.”

Ameera told me that it was her goal during Ramadan to think only charitable thoughts, ergo she avoided internet outrages which would only prompt her to uncharitably think that everyone in the world is a dill. 

I am myself very unlikely to practise Lent, Ramadan, Yom Kippur or any other time of ordained purification. But I think I might give this charitable avoidance of outrage, especially those involving celebrities, a go. Ameera is as correct about celebrity as she is about biryanis (“you can NEVER make too much”). These people can’t teach us much about our own lives.

We often look to famous people to resolve our everyday questions. This is, by no means, a sin and if you find this or that person (especially Beyoncé) gives you fleeting reason to believe in a better world, then I’m not sending you to Helen Prison. But, when we look to certain of their problems, particularly those involving money, and we believe we find them useful for or connected to our own lives, then we are courting delusion.

So, I have tried, per Ameera’s advice, not to get too involved with the “outrages” surrounding the new film Wonder Woman. Of course, I haven’t been entirely successful and I can tell you, to my shame, that they involve (a) claims that the film is not sufficiently feminist/is subversively feminist and (b) dissatisfaction with the amount the film’s female star, Gal Gadot, was paid.

Gadot was reportedly paid around $AU400,000 for four months’ production work—let’s be generous and make that six months of labour to include promotional duties and getting fitted into her metallic unitard.

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As many people writing on the matter do concede, this is a lot. But, then they say that it does not compare well to the fees paid to male action stars. There is no reason, they argue, that the lead in such a successful action blockbuster should be denied the handsome fee paid to men. This, they say, is sexism, and evidence of the gender pay gap.

Look. Sure. Yeah. There is, doubtless, sexism at play here. If those who put up the capital for a big movie can save a dollar, they will maximise their profits. If sexism helps them save that dollar, they’ll use the cultural convention of sexism. They’ll do anything to save a dollar and make a larger profit, because they are investors. Profit is their alpha and their omega. Profit drives their morals. And, if sexist morals mean more profit, they’ll take sexism up.

This, for mine, has always been the big problem with labour of any kind: the workers, whoever they are, rarely get to share in company profits. Whether you’re working on a car line, tending older citizens or looking super-hot in a metallic unitard, you should, in my view, be a part owner of the thing you produce. Why, in the name of heck, do people who already have so much money and own so many things get to make more money and own more things thanks to the labour of others?

If those who put up the capital for a big movie can save a dollar, they will maximise their profits. If sexism helps them save that dollar, they’ll use the cultural convention of sexism.

We only seem to ask about the logic of this worker and boss relationship when the worker in question is getting paid the equivalent of $800,000 per annum, which is 16 times more than what I earn and, darnit, I know I would not look sixteen times less appealing in a metallic unitard. Okay, maybe I would. But this is not my point.

My point is that you are, statistically, very likely to earn about $50,000 per annum—which is both my wage and the national median wage as calculated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.  If you are a woman, you are statistically likely to earn a little less and if a bloke, just a little more but none of you is earning anything like the weekly wage of Gadot, which for this poorly paid film is 15 grand a week. If you ARE earning more than that, you are not reading this page but are more likely to be checking on your portfolio or enjoying a healing herb steam bath as proposed by Gwyneth Paltrow.

If you are a woman, you are statistically likely to earn a little less and if a bloke, just a little more but none of you is earning anything like the weekly wage of Gadot, which for this poorly paid film is 15 grand a week.

You know how they say wealth doesn’t trickle down? Well, equality doesn’t trickle down either. If we fight for Gadot’s wage, this does not mean that we are fighting for our own stagnant lot.

It means that we continue to indulge the strange fantasy that if very lucky people have even better luck, some of it will slip off them like magical dust and infect us all with fortune. It doesn’t work that way.

These are the sorts of things I think about when I make time to have charitable thoughts for the many. You can do this during Ramadan. Heck, you can do it any time.

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