She’s one of the most recognizable celebrities in the world — and currently the highest paid actress in Hollywood. But Jennifer Lawrence still gets the short end of the stick when it comes to her salary. And she spoke out about this inequity today in a short essay penned for Lena Dunham’s newsletter, Lenny. The letter is titled “Why Do I Make Less Than My Male Co-Stars?” and it’s a bold move for the 25-year-old. But it’s one that’s received a great deal of support from many of her fellow actors and actresses.
What’s she talking about?
Late last year, a massive Sony email hack revealed that the A-lister and her co-star Amy Adams received significantly less pay than their male counterparts in the hit film American Hustle. The news was shocking, as Lawrence is undoubtedly an enormous box office draw. To many, this revelation was another sign of the oft-discussed gender pay gap in America. After all, if the star of one of the most successful film franchises in history can’t get a fair deal, what does that mean for everyone else?
Jennifer Lawrence, it turns out, was equally shocked and disappointed. “When the Sony hack happened and I found out how much less I was being paid… I didn’t get mad at Sony. I got mad at myself,” she explains in her letter, adding that she felt as though she’d “failed as a negotiator.”
Lawrence reflects on the situation by stating that she feared how she’d be perceived if she asked for a larger salary. “I didn’t want to seem ‘difficult’ or ‘spoiled’… Could there still be a lingering habit of trying to express our opinions in a certain way that doesn’t ‘offend’ or ‘scare’ men?”
The letter is by and large a keen observation from the Oscar-winning actress, who has never spoken publicly about the Sony revelation or the Hollywood gender wage gap. And Lawrence’s musings are both articulate and incredibly self-aware. She acknowledges in the letter that she doesn’t exactly need extra money, and can understand why some may be annoyed at her complaints. But by positioning herself firmly on the side of wage equality, she’s not only calling attention to her own struggle, but to that of other actresses in the industry.
Looking to the future
The Hunger Games and X-Men actress also makes it clear that she’s decided to be more assertive, stating, “I’m over trying to find the ‘adorable’ way to state my opinion and still be likable.” Lawrence has already put her money where her mouth is. She recently negotiated a stellar payday for her new film Passengers — $20 million plus 30% of profits.
Lawrence isn’t the first celebrity to speak out about the gender pay gap in Hollywood. Patricia Arquette, Sienna Miller, and many others have been vocal about their disagreement with this practice. So Lawrence has earned plenty of goodwill and encouragement from those who share her sentiment. Actresses, such as Emma Watson, Elizabeth Banks and Jessica Chastain, all tweeted their support for Lawrence’s essay. Even her American Hustle co-star, Bradley Cooper, sided with her, citing Hollywood’s “double standard” for women and his hopes that what she said will make a difference.
It’s too early to tell whether Lawrence’s letter will truly build momentum toward equal pay in Hollywood. But it’s brought about increased awareness and discussion to a topic that’s been debated in our country for decades. And it’s shown us that Lawrence wants to be respected for her talent and tenacity, not just as America’s sweetheart.