Kate Winslet is taking some heat for comments she made recently in an interview with the BBC. The Oscar-winning actress admitted that ongoing discussions about the gender wage gap make her uncomfortable. “I understand why they are coming up, but maybe it’s a British thing,” she said. “I don’t like talking about money; it’s a bit vulgar, isn’t it? . . . I’m quite surprised by these conversations, to be honest, simply because it seems quite a strange thing to be discussing out in the open like that.”
Later in the interview, when asked if she had ever had any issues with gender equality in her line of work, Winslet responded, “Honestly, no. If I’d ever been in that situation, I would have either dealt with it or removed myself from it . . . quite honestly, I’m sure I would. But I really don’t think I’ve ever come across that. . . . I haven’t ever felt as though I’ve really had to stick up for myself just because I’m a woman. I can’t honestly say that’s happened.”
It’s sort of funny how this story is being reported. “We can’t believe what Kate Winslet said about the gender pay gap,” Elle magazine tweeted. Independent says, “In dismissing talk about it as ‘vulgar,’ Kate Winslet has accidentally revealed why we have a pay gap in the first place.” If you read her words through the drama-prone and not-so-honest lens of the media, I admit that her words can sound a bit dismissive. But watching the video of the actual interview is telling. Far from dismissive or even critical, her tone is very apologetic and—in my opinion—her responses as thoughtful as they are genuine.
First of all, let’s talk about what she didn’t say. She did not say that the gender gap discussion was vulgar; she said talking about money is “a bit vulgar” and isn’t a “nice conversation to have publicly.” Further, she did not say that conversations about the wage gap should not be taking place. In fact, she makes it very clear that it’s not her place to criticize others’ words on the subject: “It’s not for me to comment on other people’s comments. And I think it would be very dangerous for me to do that. I am a very lucky woman, and I’m quite happy with how things are ticking along.”
Second, I think we need to recognize what really happened here. Winslet—who, by the way, has long spoken out against Photoshop—was asked about her thoughts and experiences. She responded. Both question and answer were placed firmly within the realm of her experience—not a critique of anyone else’s. We ought to resist the urge to dismiss her experiences merely because they differ from ours.
For the very same reason that Jennifer Lawrence ought to be able to speak out about her unfortunate experiences, Winslet ought not be silenced for her positive ones. (Plus, isn’t the fact that some women aren’t experiencing sexism a success on the part of feminism?) If talking about money makes her uncomfortable, so be it—I’m glad she can admit that. If she’s never experienced inequality in the workplace, good for her. Her perspective may be unusual, but her experiences are as valid as anyone else’s.
Let’s just not make the mistake of thinking we have to silence certain women in the cause of feminism.
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