If you haven’t yet read the latest installment of Lenny, Lena Dunham’s brilliantly curated, triumphantly feminist newsletter, you’re going to want to stop what you’re doing and pull it up from your inbox. In it, the one and only Jennifer Lawrence has penned an eye-opening essay about something she’s experienced firsthand: gender inequality in Hollywood. As you may remember, Lawrence recently went to battle with executives in order to earn a salary on par with her male counterparts. But, as she writes in Lenny, it took some soul-searching to find the confidence to make her own salary demands. With her trademark candor and humor, she opens up about what’s motivated her to take a stand. She begins:
For a little context, back in December, leaked Sony emails revealed the salaries of Lawrence and her male co-stars in American Hustle. It turned out she earned considerably less than them, despite her proven box office draw and her significant role in the film.
In her essay, Lawrence reveals that the wage gap was symptomatic of something deeper. “. . .if I’m honest with myself, I would be lying if I didn’t say there was an element of wanting to be liked that influenced my decision to close the deal without a real fight,” she wrote. “I didn’t want to seem ‘difficult’ or ‘spoiled.'”
But then, after seeing the “payroll on the Internet,” Lawrence recognized the discrepancy between her own income and those of her male co-stars. “[I] realized every man I was working with definitely didn’t worry about being ‘difficult’ or ‘spoiled,'” she said.
She then discussed the need to feel “liked” and not be too “difficult”—raising the question of whether this inclination is conditioned in women. “Could there still be a lingering habit of trying to express our opinions in a certain way that doesn’t ‘offend’ or ‘scare’ men?” she asked. Then she used an experience she had a few weeks ago at work to illustrate why we may be sidelined into thinking this way:
Jennifer may have once been worried about keeping quiet for the sake of being likable, but no longer. “I’m over trying to find the ‘adorable’ way to state my opinion and still be likable,” she wrote. “F*ck that. 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.”
She finished her essay with a few incredibly powerful sentences that illuminate the outrageous double standard in Hollywood. “Again, this might have NOTHING to do with my vagina, but I wasn’t completely wrong when another leaked Sony email revealed a producer referring to a fellow lead actress in a negotiation as a ‘spoiled brat,'” Jennifer concluded. “For some reason, I just can’t picture someone saying that about a man.”
Hear that? That’s the sound of us clapping. In no more than five paragraphs, Lawrence managed to peel back the psychological and socio-cultural layers that bind us in a state of inequality. Her own self-reflection serves to explain some of the barriers women face in terms of wage equality, and the importance of knocking them down. And most notably, she reveals the double standard women face in Hollywood—and let’s be honest—much of the working world, when we speak up and make the same demands men make all the time.
We’ve always admired Lawrence for her talent, her humor, and her straight-up realness. But this essay also reminds us how much we admire her strength. She’s Katniss Everdeen, through and through. And by opening up about her own fears—and challenging them—she’s providing more transparency about gender inequality in Hollywood, and more inspiration for other women to stand up and demand exactly what they deserve.
(Image via Shutterstock.)