J. Law Takes On The Gender Wage Gap

by Courtney Lindley

In the most recent issue of Lena Dunham's Lenny Letter, Jennifer Lawrence talked about the gender wage gap in Hollywood. When salary information from J. Law's second David O. Russell film, American Hustle, was leaked during the Sony hack just last year, it became known that Lawrence earned a substantially less amount than her male co-stars for her Oscar-nominated role. Lawrence has remained quiet about the particular leak until now. In the essay she contributed to Lenny, aptly titled, "Why Do I Make Less Than My Male Co-Stars?," Lawrence reveals her feelings about the privacy violation and what it means at a macro level, in terms of females getting the kind of compensation they deserve.

It becomes evident right away that Lawrence's brutally transparent piece won't shy away from the dichotomies of being a woman in today's world, and, more specifically, an outspoken one. Lawrence admits that, when she was approached to contribute to Lenny, she was "excited to start thinking about what to complain about." Though, she quickly retorts, "that’s not what she pitched me [complaining], it’s just what I’m gonna do."

Lawrence's concession to do what she feels most people will see as a "complaint" sets up an interesting dynamic for the rest of the piece as she, perhaps inadvertently, grapples with the question: Why should asking for more, as a woman, make me feel "difficult?"

Because, unfortunately, Lawrence's confrontation of what it means to "complain" about something is completely, 100 percent, dead on. There are readers out there, and publications, and people of all kinds who will take these candid confessions as complaints, and write Lawrence off as what she ultimately is trying to push back against: that of a "spoiled brat."

Lawrence continues, "When it comes to the subject of feminism, I’ve remained ever-so-slightly quiet." While I've never necessarily thought of Jennifer Lawrence as an actress that stays "ever-so-quiet" about feminism, she's kind of right. It's not that her stances on body shaming, and her previous response to the other leak involving photos, are less feminist (in my opinion, there's no scale). It's just that, not only is this admission about the gender pay gap in Hollywood brutally honest and necessary, it's her most empowering stance yet. Why? Because she's putting her neck — and by default, her business — on the line. If there's one thing she's not doing in this letter, it's being "ever-so-quiet."

She recognizes how radical this feels to her as she tries to remain grounded by her convictions. "I want to be honest and open and, fingers crossed, not piss anyone off." As we witness Lawrence bounce back and forth between wanting to remain PC and being "over trying to find the “adorable” way to state my opinion and still be likable," we feel that struggle. We feel what it's like to walk that line because we've all been there. And, when she finally, audaciously states, "f*ck that," we feel that too.

As a woman in any business setting, stating that you are worth more, want more, and deserve more is profoundly difficult. As a woman in Hollywood, where image and how the world perceives you is all you have, it's terrifying. We don't live in a world where many people in the spotlight are willing to risk their next movie role, or sponsorship deal or public image for the truth often, and, even though Lawrence admits that her story is hardly relatable — being that she, you know, is hugely famous and financially successful — it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter that we are not all award winning, multi millionaire actresses. It matters that someone with a platform speaks up about an issue that effects us all. Even if and when she sees herself as complaining, the fact that she's talking about this and questioning it? That's what matters. That's what makes this so important.

As Lawrence concludes her piece, she finally states, "I don’t think I’ve ever worked for a man in charge who spent time contemplating what angle he should use to have his voice heard. It’s just heard." I don't disagree with you Lawrence, but I'm letting you know: People are listening, and you are being heard, so please, don't stop using your voice.

Images: Giphy (2)