Jennifer Lawrence Talks Gender Wage Gap With Diane Sawyer & Highlights The Intrinsic Problem
There are so many reasons to adore Jennifer Lawrence that it can be hard to know where to start. In recent weeks, Jennifer Lawrence has criticized the gender wage gap, penning a missive in Lena Dunham's Lenny Letter about her own struggles with standing up for her right to be paid the same as her male co-stars and even, allegedly, backing out of an upcoming movie over wage disputes. She has played beloved characters like Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games, and Mystique from X-Men: First Class. She has been energetic and awkward and relatabley weird in interviews, making herself feel more like our best friend than an intimidating celebrity. Lawrence is so much at once that I don't know how she doesn't get exhausted, but, if there's one thing she's not, it's a pushover. On Thursday, Lawrence spoke about the gender wage gap with Diane Sawyer, in a Good Morning America clip of her upcoming Nightline interview, and she totally nailed the problem once again.
Something that Lawrence, in particular, focuses on when it comes to the conversation of equal pay is her own struggles with not just knowing her own worth but feeling justified in making others know her value. Even in her Lenny Letter essay, Lawrence admitted that she hadn't spoken up in the past because she worried about seeming "difficult" or "spoiled" — a valid fear for an up-and-coming actress even of Lawrence's calibre, and something that even seasoned actresses with many successful films under their belt worry about. Then, with Diane Sawyer, when asked why this and why now, Lawrence said these immortal words:
My question to myself was "why am I not asking for it?" I know that I’ve always kind of carried a habit of... submissiveness with the idea of that makes me more likable. I felt like I had to say something, because we need to talk about it. On average, women are paid 21 percent less than men. We can ask for the same exact thing that men do. And we do face the reality that we do get judged more. It’s just something that is intrinsic, and I would love to see change.
The idea that "submissiveness" in a woman makes them more likable is a societal construct that has been around for years — centuries, even, when women were considered too frail and weak to even hear about the bawdy topics men might discuss. (You know, like blood. Or politics.) Even now, after the onset of many different waves of feminism, we still live in a world where, as Reese Witherspoon pointed out at Glamour's Women of the Year gala, ambition in women is seen as a negative or undesirable trait. Unfortunately, the flip side of that isn't true. Submissiveness in men is considered a weakness, and ambition in men is considered attractive. So, honestly, Lawrence wasn't wrong in thinking that her habit of submissiveness would make her more likable. Society practically drills that thought into the head of every woman.
However, she was absolutely right to find in herself the strength to finally speak out. That's a difficult task for any woman, but for Lawrence to realize her own social and career cache, and speak up not only for herself, but for the benefit of women everywhere who might be swayed by her voice, is brave and admirable. For her to commit herself to this cause, to making sure that women everywhere know that it is OK for them to want more for themselves and, even better, to ask for more for themselves, is inspirational. Will she be judged for it? She right here states that she knows that she will. She even warns everyone listening that they will be judged. However, the fact that she made a point of driving home the point that we will be judged more — the more implying the inherent unfairness of that judgment — is what truly makes this rallying cry so effective.
Because, at the end of the day, why should we be? Men aren't judged for demanding more for themselves and, when they are, it's not with the automatic, hateful immediacy that women are judged when they do the same thing. The outrageous behavior that men must rise to in order to be considered difficult the way a woman would if she so much as disagreed with something is ridiculous, and is definitely something that needs to change. Lawrence is a role model to so many women, to so many men, to so many children. She's an Oscar-winning actress who, at 25 years old, has the kind of career that many performers could only dream of. That she is using that platform to tell women that they deserve better than what society tells them they can get is amazing. And, honestly, it makes her more likable, not less.