Sandra Bullock is weighing on the Hollywood gender gap, but according to the 51-year-old actress, pay inequality is just one small part of the problem.
"It's a bigger issue than money," Bullock told Variety. "I know we're focused on the money part right now. That's just a byproduct."
According to the Our Brand Is Crisis star, the disparity between how female celebrities are treated differently than their male counterparts is an even greater symptom of the gender gap that still exists to this day.
"I always make a joke: 'Watch, we're going to walk down the red carpet, I'm going to be asked about my dress and my hair while the man standing next to me will be asked about his performance and political issues,'" she said. "Once we start shifting how we perceive women and stop thinking about them as 'less than,' the pay disparity will take care of itself. There's a much bigger issue at hand. I'm glad Hollywood got caught."
Bullock said it was an experience on a movie set almost a decade ago that opened her eyes to the inequality between male and female performers.
"I was actually doing a film about 10 years ago, and I found myself yelling and being angry. And I was like, 'What is happening to me?'" she explained. "I was literally fearful. And I realized, it's because I'm female. It dawned on me. At that day and age, at that point in my career, it was the worst experience I ever had."
"I was destroyed, because you can't unsee something," Bullock continued. "It was the way I was being treated, because I was female, versus the way others were being treated... It took a year and a half, where I regrouped, and thought, "Okay, this is an isolated case." I've had other subtle experiences, but nothing that blatant. It was a big eye opener, because it wasn't just men on women. A lot if came from women as well. The blessing of that film was that it opened my eyes."
However, the actress is hopeful for change, especially in an industry that prides itself on being progressive.
"Hollywood has always been at the forefront of pioneering a new road and a new movement," she added. "So it's a blessing that they got caught, and there are a lot of outspoken, narcissistic actors like myself who are very happy to talk about the issue and keep it alive."
Bullock wants equality not just for herself, she explains, but for future generations of actors and actresses.
"I was just happy to be working, so you take it, especially in this business. Only like 1 or 2 percent of us get to do this job," she conceded. "But money is the byproduct of everything. How do you explain to your son that the ERA hasn't passed? I want him to think I'm the boss and women are equal, but I can't really support that in the outside world. I hope in my lifetime, for him, everything is a level-playing field. We can hope."