A photo of Jennifer Lawrence in a Versace dress is making its rounds on Twitter, and it's not about how fabulous the style is. Lawrence posed with the Red Sparrow cast outside in 40 degree weather in London while wearing a sleeveless, high-slit dress. Contrasted with the coats and pants of her co-stars, many people said the photo exemplified how Hollywood treats women.
It's no secret that actresses feel an immense pressure to be beautiful in order to stay in the industry, experiencing everything from unrealistic body standards to being sexualized on screen to having an expiration date of 40, where their leading roles dip down to 20 percent. And all that's not to mention the #MeToo era of sexual harassment and assault allegations in Hollywood. Because of this, people become sensitive when they see how actresses are portrayed when compared to their male co-stars. When Lawrence's photo went viral, it seemed to make that parallel visual, albeit slightly.
One of the first people to comment on Twitter was New Statesman editor Helen Lewis, who tweeted out, "This is such a quietly depressing (and revealing) image. Not least because I've been outside today and it's bloody FREEZING."
When people pointed out Lawrence could have simply said no to stepping out onto the terrace sans-coat, Lewis reminded that sometimes it's really not that easy. Women who stand up for themselves have a tendency to be labeled as "difficult," and it could lead to opportunity losses in the future.
She quoted Lawrence herself who spoke out about the issue, explaining how it's not as simple for women to speak their mind as it is for men, because there are different consequences involved. "I finally made the decision to stand up for myself...and then I was punished, and I got afraid that I wasn't going to be hired again," Lawrence was quoted in the tweet. "I was called difficult and a nightmare. I think a lot of people aren't coming forward because they're afraid they're not going to work again."
While all of this is true, it turns out that Lawrence wasn't strong-armed into posing without a jacket next to her bundled-up co-stars. Instead, she wanted to step outside in her Versace dress because she thought it was too fabulous to cover up. And that is an essential distinction in this conversation.
In a statement on Lawrence's official Facebook page, she spoke out against the viral controversy, reminding us being sexy can't always be coded as "oppressive;" sometimes women want to embrace their bodies and their fashion choices and stand outside in the cold.
"This is not only utterly ridiculous, I am extremely offended," she wrote in her post. "That Versace dress was fabulous, you think I'm going to cover that gorgeous dress up with a coat and a scarf? I was outside for 5 minutes. I would have stood in the snow for that dress because I love fashion and that was my choice."
She goes on to explain how policing women and what they wear isn't feminist, but another way to control women and limiting their choices.
"This is sexist, this is ridiculous, this is not feminism. Over-reacting about everything someone says or does, creating controversy over silly innocuous things such as what I choose to wear or not wear, is not moving us forward," she wrote. "Everything you see me wear is my choice. And if I want to be cold, THAT'S MY CHOICE TOO!"
Many went up-in-arms over the image because it resembled hundreds of other images of actresses having to use their bodies in a way male actors don't feel pressured to. But while we're pushing for women not be sexualized by others, it's important to remember that a woman can still embrace her own sexuality and express it how she sees fit. The difference between the two is that she has the agency to decide in the latter.
And that includes stepping out in nippy winter weather in a strappy dress, just because you think your fashion is too hot to cover up.