Amna Saleem 21st December 2017
Despite its obnoxious exclamation mark, and since politics and pop culture aren’t mutually exclusive, I will happily admit that I enjoy the lives of celebrities with the same satisfaction I get from putting on socks straight out the tumble dryer. The E! channel is no stranger to controversy but it is entertaining, like the name promises. Usually, it fights external feuds and pores over other people’s scandals but this time the accusations were coming from inside the building.
Popular TV presenter Catt Sadler has been with E! for more than 10 years – as has Jason Kennedy her co-host (or “work husband” as she likes to affectionately refer to him). They have the necessary on-screen chemistry and repertoire that makes them so easy to watch for way longer than you meant to.
It’s hard to see what’s fair or appropriate about paying one person significantly less for doing the same job
But it recently came to light that Sadler was being paid almost half what her co-host makes. When confronted with this uncomfortable truth Sadler attempted to negotiate a higher and fairer wage but was denied. Repeatedly. The pay gap that so many deem imaginary reared its ugly head and this time she was the victim. Even though the network was keen to renew Sadler’s contract, it refused to come close to matching her co-star’s salary. E! did however release a statement which, if anything, leaves us with more questions than answers.
“E! compensates employees fairly and appropriately based on their roles, regardless of gender. We appreciate Catt Sadler’s many contributions at E! News and wish her all the best following her decision to leave the network.”
It’s hard to see what’s fair or appropriate about paying one person significantly less for doing the same job and it becomes increasingly suspect when you learn that Sadler actually held two different roles within the company. She hosted the Daily Pop and E! News – while Kennedy was only committed to the latter. Sadler has been polite and humble about her experience but said firmly in her statement that quitting the network was her only option as she couldn’t continue working somewhere she wasn’t valued.
Sadler and Kennedy say they’re genuinely good friends due to their extensive time hosting shows together, which compels me to question why Kennedy didn’t step forward when he learned of the disparity. The onus to rectify this is clearly on the network but Kennedy could have taken a pay cut or threatened to walk in support of his much-loved, hard-working colleague. He stays at the network with the unhindered opportunity to continue his career at the expense of someone he claims to be dear to him.
The #metoo movement has unleashed a new wave of anger that refuses to be tamed. The silence of men, especially powerful men, is now simply complicity. Women are demanding accountability in the fight for equality and men need to stand with us to combat the inherent injustice that prevails so freely in almost every industry. Many men claim to support equal pay but refuse to spring into action when they’re in the position to change things. It can understandably be difficult, I’m sure, but no less difficult than the humiliation of knowing you’re being wholly undermined just for being a woman. As usual, it’s left to women to support other women. Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Lawrence and Olivia Munn among others have shown their dismay – but not surprise – at the treatment of Sadler.
I’m usually loath to praise anything to do with The Big Bang Theory. But, tepid jokes and bland humour aside, it has to be acknowledged that the cast choosing to present a united front when negotiating pay with showrunners was a commendable move. It’s been widely noted that the Friends cast ensured their one million dollar paychecks in the same fashion. Emma Stone has talked in the past about some of her male colleagues voluntarily taking pay cuts so she can be on the same level as them. A united front forces the hands of god and sends a strong message. It reminds the powers that be that things need to change and fast.
Perhaps, in the near future, we will learn exactly what happened behind the scenes at E! but it’s more likely that the network will brush it under the rug and hope we’re too distracted by the Kardashians to notice.
It’s simply time more men start putting their money where their mouth is as the examples of men doing exactly that are too few and far between. It is, quite frankly, ridiculous that we need men to align with us to be taken seriously but, unfortunately, progress often comes from those who are already influential. A million movies can be written about the fact that with power comes great responsibility but, until men start to take that responsibility seriously and reflect it in real life, equality will remain but a fiction.
Amna Saleem 21st December 2017