If we're going to talk about what Jeremy Renner said in response to Jennifer Lawrence's powerful essay on gender wage inequality, then we first need to talk about what Jeremy Renner didn't say. When he was quoted in Business Insider, it was a quote that was easy to misconstrue. I mean, how dare Renner say it's not his job to help with wage inequality? How tone deaf can one person get? However, Renner did not mean that he thought helping actresses with wage inequality was not his job. He was asked if he would help them literally negotiate higher wages, and that particular method of helping is what he was saying is not his job. After all, he continued, "I don't know contracts and money and all that sort of stuff." Which, you know, is fair and accurate. However, there are other ways to get involved that were overlooked in the quote.
So, let's start with the facts. Renner is in support of gender wage equality, but, while Bradley Cooper has said that he wants to start helping actresses negotiate higher salaries, Renner justifiably points out that, "I'm a performer and I know human behavior. When it comes to that sort of stuff I let other people deal with that. I do what I'm good at, that's what I focus on." After all, as Business Insider says, "Actors and actresses are rarely involved in the negotiating process and leave the deals to agents, managers, and lawyers." As disappointing as it might sound on the first read, it's actually a good thing that Renner wants to play to his strengths instead of wading into a financial situation he feels personally ill-equipped for and that he could end up making worse.
However, he doesn't necessarily have to kick down the door in the wage negotiation office and white knight on behalf of his co-stars in order to be an advocate for wage equality. Instead of wasting a sound bite on replying that negotiating contracts isn't his job, more time could have spent on discussing what he does want his role to be in this movement. The sheer act of talking about why gender wage equality is important, or expanding on why he supports equal pay for all actors and actresses, would be a powerful statement of solidarity that wouldn't have gotten buried in his claim that the actual process of negotiation is not his job. Renner is an ally, he said as much in his show of support, but focusing more on the issue than on what he is or isn't willing to do to advance the cause would have been a better use of his words.
Renner knows it's not literally his job to negotiate the contracts, but that doesn't mean he can't stand behind the actresses and add his supportive voice to theirs to show the people whose job it is that the acting community as a whole won't stand for this anymore. That doesn't mean that he can't write letters about his own beliefs on why pay equality is so important, as Lawrence did. That doesn't mean he can't devote time in interviews and in awards acceptance speeches to giving the movement a shoutout. That doesn't mean he can't advocate for this important issue in a way that, while it might be less effective of change than literally negotiating a contract like a lawyer would, would still advance the cause by a single footstep at a time. There is always more than one way to help, and raising awareness is as important a step as any.
Bustle reached out to Jeremy Renner's representatives for comments, but have yet to receive a reply.