Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting is on the February cover of Redbook, and what she said in her interview may surprise you. As the star of ratings-juggernaut The Big Bang Theory, the actress is grateful for the ability to use her $1 million per episode paycheck to help out her parents and family.
But, Cuoco-Sweeting is the sole female member of the cast bringing home a salary that high. And, her character has never been given a last name. Are your gender-inequality sensors starting to prick up? They should be.
It might be easy to say we're reading too much into this, and that Penny's lack of a surname is more of a running gag than a subtle indication of the show's attitude toward female identity. But, Cuoco-Sweeting's response to the ol' "Are you a feminist?" question only adds more fuel for speculation.
"Is it bad if I say no? It's not really something I think about," Cuoco-Sweeting told Redbook. "Things are different now, and I know a lot of the work that paved the way for women happened before I was around...I was never that feminist girl demanding equality, but maybe that's because I've never really faced inequality."
You don't have to face inequality personally to understand that it exists, and you don't have to ignore it because it doesn't apply to you in your present situation. Being a feminist isn't just about individual experience, it's about seeing injustices that other women face and recognizing that they occur because of gender. Cuoco-Sweeting's decision not to label herself a feminist is her choice, but her rationale is worrisome and her viewpoint both myopic and somewhat self-centered.
Cuoco-Sweeting may not realize that she has, in fact, been the victim of gender inequality — she just hasn't chosen to identify it as such. The star was part of the massive iCloud photo hack that took place earlier this year. The vast majority of celebrities whose photos were stolen were female. Still, when the magazine asked what she learned from the situation, Cuoco-Sweeting's only advice to "other girls" is to "get a Polaroid."
The actress also told Redbook, "I cook for Ryan five nights a week: It makes me feel like a housewife; I love that. I know it sounds old-fashioned, but I like the idea of women taking care of their men. I'm so in control of my work that I like coming home and serving him."
Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting is obviously entitled to her own point of view. Her decision to hyphenate her last name shows she has a certain ownership of her identity, and consciously chose how she wanted it to evolve after marriage. She's fortunate enough to be in an empowered position that affords her the ability to make such decisions. Unfortunately, not all women have that privilege. The example closest to home? Her character Penny, who doesn't even have a last name to hyphenate. (Redbook)
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