Jennifer Lawrence’s Essay About The Wage Gap Proves She Is Relatable
Look: celebrities aren’t like us common folk. We all know that. So when they drop some serious wisdom like this, it’s difficult not to roll our eyes and discount their words, because what do they really know about the struggles of everyday living? But if we read and comment with optimism, the truth is that celebrities have the same base struggles as we do, except on a grand scale. And because they have similar issues with a huge audience, they can call attention to issues with greater effect that we, alas, cannot.
Today, Jennifer Lawrence penned a funny, honest, and important letter about sexism in Hollywood and the wage gap between male and female actors. She wrote it on Lena Dunham’s newsletter service Lenny Letter, and posted it to Facebook. It’s worth a read, even if you don’t agree with her.
So yeah Jennifer Lawrence: you’re relatable, even if your problem isn’t as big. Here’s an excerpt:
When the Sony hack happened and I found out how much less I was being paid than the lucky people with dicks, I didn’t get mad at Sony. I got mad at myself. I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early. I didn’t want to keep fighting over millions of dollars that, frankly, due to two franchises, I don’t need. (I told you it wasn’t relatable, don’t hate me).
In the letter, Jennifer Lawrence brings up a lot of excellent points about sexism, and a lot of evidence to suggest she’s been treated unfairly because she’s a woman in Hollywood. Gender wage gap aside, Lawrence cites the many instances in which she feels like she can’t assert her opinion, negotiate a better deal, and be in control of her business and financial situations for fear of being labeled a “spoiled brat,” a “bitch” or other derogatory terms that men in the industry don’t have to deal with.
I’m over trying to find the “adorable” way to state my opinion and still be likable! Fuck 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. Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale, and Bradley Cooper all fought and succeeded in negotiating powerful deals for themselves. If anything, I’m sure they were commended for being fierce and tactical, while I was busy worrying about coming across as a brat and not getting my fair share. 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.” For some reason, I just can’t picture someone saying that about a man.
Even though her story and experiences are valid and deserve to be shared, Lawrence had other reasons for being, as she phrased it, “ever-so-slightly quiet” until now. That’s because she’s a huge star, one of the highest-paid celebrities in the world, and therefore, not exactly relatable.
But what Lawrence failed to realize, perhaps due to her people-pleasing tendencies she’s already lamented, is that when celebrities talk about real issues, they become more relevant, much more widely discussed, and much more inspirational to normal people who face these issues in their lives.
Most women make less than men, but many don’t speak out for many of the same reasons Lawrence already mentioned. If Jennifer Lawrence, a filthy rich person, can call attention to an issue that half the population faces, then where’s the bad? Her experiences aren’t discounted because she makes more money than us; on the contrary, her exposure makes her extremely influential, and she’s using that influence for good.
Jennifer Lawrence’s letter reminds me of another uber-successful star’s letter: Taylor Swift’s blog post about Apple’s new music streaming app and its now-reversed decision to pay no royalties to artists during its trial period. If you haven’t already, you can read it here.
Taylor Swift asserted the fact that she wasn’t speaking out against Apple’s questionable policies for herself alone. Rather, she was in the position to effect change, and to stand up for what she believed in. Because she had the voice and the influence, she used it, and it turned out extremely well. Apple listened to her and reversed its policy in something like eight hours, because Swift is mightier than Apple.
Despite the good it did, the letter caused many to call Swift a—you guessed it—”spoiled brat.” Read below:
These are not the complaints of a spoiled, petulant child. These are the echoed sentiments of every artist, writer and producer in my social circles who are afraid to speak up publicly because we admire and respect Apple so much. We simply do not respect this particular call.
She already has more than enough money: does she need any more?
No, probably not. But putting aside Swift’s many charitable works, this isn’t about the money—alone. This is about the principle of the thing. This is about using influence to do what’s right.
It’s also a double-edged sword, because if Swift didn’t speak out, likely she (or others like her) would have been criticized for not doing anything to effect change when they have the power to do so.
The same is happening with Lawrence’s Lenny letter. She was too afraid to be criticized for speaking her mind, because she’s been faced with criticism for speaking her mind. But by using her platform to call attention to the issue, she’s making herself so much more relevant, relatable, and influential to the common folk who don’t make millions of dollars for one project.
Celebrities, strangely enough, are often spokespeople for causes, issues, and problems in our society. So to criticize them for it is to take away our mouthpiece, and that just seems counterproductive to me.