Where Gina Rodriguez Went Wrong With Her Discussion On Black And Latina Women's Pay

September 16 2020

Back in 2018, Gina Rodriguez has fanned the flames of Twitter with her now-infamous quote discussing Black and Latina actresses' pay in Hollywood.

During a Porter magazine roundtable discussion with fellow actresses Ellen Pompeo, Emma Roberts and Gabrielle Union, Rodriguez expressed her opinions on women's pay when it's broken down by race.

"I get so petrified in this space talking about equal pay especially when you look at the intersectional aspect of it, right? Where White women get paid more than Black women, Black women get paid more than Asian women, Asian women get paid more than Latina women, and it's like a very scary space to step into," she said. "Because I always feel like I fail when I speak about it because I can't help but feel already so gracious to do what I do and I feel like, culturally, I feel like I was raised to just feel so appreciative of getting here."

Clearly, she should have gone with her instincts, since her comment didn't sit well with many Twitter denizens.

Clearly, this is a topic ripe for discussion. Let's take a step back for a second and look at what the facts are and where Rodriguez went wrong.

Let's take Hollywood out of it for a second and look at some stats for general workplace pay. According to the National Women's Law Center (NWLC), Latinas are paid "just 53 cents for every dollar paid to White, non-Hispanic men." The pay gap, the center states, "amounts to an annual loss of $28,386, [meaning] that to make as much as White, non-Hispanic men typically do in a one 12-month calendar year, Latinas have to work 22 months--until the beginning of November in the following calendar year." The center also states that the gap between Latinas and White, non-Hispanic men "is far larger than the wage gap between all women and all men," citing that women are generally paid 80 cents to the dollar in comparison to men.

If we're going by the stats given by Equal Pay Today, Latinas also do get paid less than Black women. Even though the typical pay for women is 80 cents to every male dollar, Black women actually get paid 63 cents to ever dollar given to White, non-Hispanic men as of the organization's 2017 stats. "This means the typical Black woman must work until August 2018 to be paid what the typical White man was paid at the end of December 2017," states the organization.

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) states that according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Black women make even less--61 cents to the White male dollar, but it's still more than Latinas. They, too, also cite that Latina women, according to Census records, make 53 cents to the dollar. Asian women, by contrast, are paid 87 percent of what White, non-Hispanic men make and must work 14 months to get the same pay as a White, non-Hispanic male. The rate for Asian women in the workplace is still unfair, but it's also more than both Latina and Black women's annual pay.

Also, as far as Hollywood goes, it is true that Sofia Vergara is the highest paid television actress, grossing $42.5 million in 2018, according to Forbes. It's also her seventh year at the top of this list thanks in part to her Modern Family salary, but also to her many other endorsements and business ventures, which Forbes says "make up nearly half of her payday." If she didn't have the other endorsements and deals, she most certainly wouldn't be at the top, which shows just how much Hollywood does underpay all minority actresses, including Latinas.

As we reported in August, Scarlett Johansson tops Forbes' list of highest paid actresses overall in Hollywood at $40.5 million, and the rest of the list feature no Black, Asian or Latina, Middle Eastern, biracial or multiracial/multiethnic actresses.

But where she went wrong is, first of all, getting part of her stats wrong. As shown above, Black women might make more than Latinas, but they also make less than Asian women. But still, even though Asian women make 85 cents to the dollar, according to NWLC, there are other salary disparities for the differing racial and ethnic demographics under the Asian umbrella.

The same can be said for the differing demos within the Latina umbrella, too, particularly when it comes to Black Latinas, a group Rodriguez seems to forget about.

With both Black and Latina identities, these women are at a critical juncture within the pay structure, since they are no doubt doubly affected. As the National Women's Law Center states, Dominican women, as well as Mexican women and women from Central America, have the biggest issues when it comes to equal pay.

This point is backed up by a study conducted by Adolfo G. Cuevas, PhD, Beverly Araujo Dawson, PhD and David R. Williams PhD. In their research, they found that Black Latinos were exposed to more situations affecting their health and well-being than White Latinos, including having a "lower median household income, higher unemployment, and a higher poverty rate than...White Latinos/as." Black Latinos also experience "higher levels of psychosocial stressors, such as financial strain and racial discrimination, which can erode the individual's health through psychological responses...physiological responses...and health behaviors."

The same can probably be said for Black Latinas in Hollywood, who don't get as many roles as other Latina actresses and usually are pigeonholed to playing either "Black" or "Latina" roles instead of roles that encompass the entirety of their identities. In her statement about pay, Rodriguez probably inadvertently revealed her own viewpoint of what constitutes as "Latina."

Rodriguez also rankled people in 2017 when she voiced her opinions on Black Panther and Wonder Woman on Twitter. "Marvel and DC are killing it in inclusion and women but where are the Latinos?! Asking for a friend," she wrote.

Rodriguez also invited ire when she posted her 2017 "Fiercely Latina" picture featuring a large number of Hollywood's Latina creatives. The picture from the event, organized by Rodriguez and America Ferrera, only featured one Afro-Latina, Rosario Dawson and many wondered why other prominent Afro-Latina actresses weren't in the picture.

View this post on Instagram

Fiercely Latina. #LatinaPower ????????????????

A post shared by Gina Rodriguez (@hereisgina) on Oct 15, 2017 at 3:38pm PDT

"Being Afro-Latina in the U.S. is difficult enough without being excluded from a group of fellow Hollywood Latinas that were meant to showcase diveristy," wrote Irina Gonzalez for Hip Latina. "...Were La La Anthony, Christina Milian, Rosie Perez, Dascha Polanco, Dania Ramirez...Judy Reyes, Naya Rivera, Zoe Sandaña, Lauren Velez or any other Afro-Latinas in Hollywood simply not available,or where they not invited to the table?"

Rodriguez alleged that she did invite others like Polanco, to which Polanco herself wrote on Twitter that she didn't get the invite.

She has also made Black viewers feel as if she has a grudge against Black women in Hollywood. For instance, when it appeared she spoke for Yara Shahidi during a Smallfoot press junket interview, she interrupted the interviewer who said Shahidi was an inspiration to Black women to say "many women."

Lastly, her statement about pay is made at an inopportune time. The conversation she and the other actresses were having was about racism, sexism, and discrimination in Hollywood towards actresses, particularly where actresses of color are concerned. Bringing up the differences in pay during a conversation that is supposed to (hopefully) bring people together only creates further division and acts as a distraction to the real issue, which is that women in any occupation get paid less than White men. Rodriguez's motivations for bringing up pay have been interpreted as knowingly sparking division, and creating an "us versus them" environment is not what is needed to get real action on the table.

Apparently, some animosity has been building up between the public and Rodriguez for a while, and this was what broke the camel's back. But let us hope that if there's any silver lining in any of this (aside from women being paid what they're owed) is that in the future, Rodriguez thinks before she speaks and think about how her words and actions can affect others, particularly her Black and Black Latina sisters in the struggle.

by Monique Jones on September 16 2020

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