Gender Inequality in Celebrities Extends Even Beyond the Grave
Thu, April 22, 2021

Gender Inequality in Celebrities Extends Even Beyond the Grave

It seems that even in death, gender disparity is still alive and well, especially when it comes to artists in the showbiz industry / Photo by: Elnur via Shutterstock

 

It seems that even in death, gender disparity is still alive and well, especially when it comes to artists in the showbiz industry, who are still honored even long after they have left this world. It’s really an unfortunate reality that deceased male artists who continue to earn even after death get more compared to their female counterparts. 

The question is how can such a disparity still exist when there should already be equality for people, including celebrities, who have passed on? 

 

Product Endorsements

A glaring example of this gender disparity is when artists still make money beyond the grave. For this, an explanation of how massively different people see male and female artists is in order. You can use the term “male gaze” in this case, because that seems to be the way things are. 

How is that justified? In an article on non-profit media outlet The Conversation, female legacy is usually more steeped in sexuality and physical value. What this means is that female artists and celebrities like Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor, who died 57 and 8 years ago, respectively, are more remembered for their sex appeal and beautiful faces than, say, the movies they made or their actual contribution to their respective industries. 

Female artists and celebrities like Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor, who died 57 and 8 years ago, respectively, are more remembered for their sex appeal and beautiful faces than, say, the movies they made or their actual contribution to their respective industries / Photo by: Denis Makarenko via Shutterstock

 

If you don’t believe that, writer and senior lecturer at the University of York Ruth Penfold-Mounce explained that with female artists, it’s almost always about symbolism. She wrote: “For many high-profile celebrity women, the traces they leave possess sexualized value, much as they had in life—related to their youth, beauty, and sensuality. A great deal of their symbolic and economic value is about their bodies, so the way in which their traces are put to work after they die reflects gendered inequality.”  

This sensual symbolism also extends to the products their names sell beyond the grave. This means female celebrities are often delegated to products such as perfume or chocolates while male artists sell cars or something along the same lines. 

Keep in mind that owning sexuality is not something to be ashamed of. In most cases, female celebrities own their sensualities as part of themselves. What is slightly disconcerting is the distinction of their bodies from their other talents, which also deserve as much, if not more, recognition. 

Additionally, women’s values are usually not even their own. Male artists are a source of production, while female artists are used as a “means for generating wealth for others.” 

Beyond “Bodily Capital”

Will it change any time soon? Phys.org, a website that offers the latest news on science, physics, earth science, health, and medicine, has good news: Things are changing. More and more, women of the recent century are realizing that the worth they will eventually have can be sourced from something other than their so-called “bodily capital.” 

Examples include Oprah Winfrey and JK Rowling, whose contributions to their respective industries extend beyond their bodies. Winfrey, an incredibly iconic and successful television personality, actress, and entrepreneur, will be remembered by her being a big household name in the talk show format. 

Rowling, too, who will forever be known as the author of the most successful fantasy book series of all time. 

So it’s safe to say that things are looking up. While the rich list still has more men than women, the current atmosphere of the new era yields promise that things might just be somewhat better for female artists. 

In its records, the business magazine Forbes lists Michael Jackson as the top earner even after death, racking up a whopping $60 million. He is followed by Elvis Presley with $39 million, Charles Schulz $38 million, Arnold Palmer $30 million, Bob Marley $20 million, Dr. Seuss $19 million, John Lennon $14 million, and the first woman on the list, Marilyn Monroe, earning $13 million posthumously. 

In its records, the business magazine Forbes lists Michael Jackson as the top earner even after death, racking up a whopping $60 million / Photo by: Vicki L. Miller via Shutterstock

 

She is followed by Prince at $12 million, recently deceased Nipsey Hussle at $11 million, XXXTentacion $10 million, Whitney Houston $9.5 million, and finally, George Harrison $9 million. 

Penfold-Mounce explained that the shift in attitude toward the new generation of women is skewing positively. 

“We are now getting a smarter generation of celebrities who are taking control of their celebrity status and the revenue generated by their talents. These women may decide to follow in the footsteps of celebrities like Robin Williams by taking steps to protect their posthumous careers and leaving clear legal instructions with charitable foundations set up in their names on how to manage their affairs in the afterlife.” 

It will understandably take a while for the cycle to break, but eventually, it looks like it will. 

She finishes with a rather grim note, though: “As it stands, the gendered inequality of bodily capital means that for celebrity women, death is not the last great equalizer—inequality continues in death.”