Wage disparity between genders in the workplace has been a hot-button issue in the American media for longer than most of us can remember. Recently, it has become apparent that even Hollywood is not immune.
Jennifer Lawrence recently posted an essay entitled “Why Do I Make Less Than My Male Co-Stars?” in Lena Dunham’s feminist newsletter Lenny, describing the pay disparity between her and her male co-stars for the Oscar-nominated film American Hustle.
Lawrence points out how her personal situation is not exactly “relatable,” how once the information of her co-stars’ wages leaked from Sony Pictures she was “mad at herself,” and she “failed as a negotiator.” Since, she has received support from many other prominent actresses in show business, including Emma Watson, Jessica Chastain and Rooney Mara. “I’ve been in films where I’ve found out my male co-star got paid double what I got paid, and it’s just a reality of the time that we live in,” Mara mentions in an interview with the Guardian.
Lawrence’s American Hustle co-star Bradley Cooper recently told Reuters in an interview that he plans to help his female costars in the future negotiate their salaries.
While the help is certainly appreciated, Lawrence is searching to make a stronger statement. “I’m over trying to find the ‘adorable’ way to state my opinion and still be likable…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.” But it's the sheer principle that she has to do more negotiating than others that truly infuriates her. Actors like Cooper should not be the solution to the problem. Males should not have to help speak for the females negotiating their pay. Lawrence is arguing that women should not only be able to have equal pay, but they should be able to speak their minds without fear of being ostracized.
Lawrence is certainly not the first actress to have addressed this issue looming over female icons. Patricia Arquette closed out her acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress at last year’s Academy Awards with the topic of gender equality. “We have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It is our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”
It seems as if the problem is not just that Hollywood is unappreciative of women’s contributions, but is also underrepresented by them. According to the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, only 4.1% of the 1,300 top-grossing films released between 2002 and 2014 were helmed by female directors. Meryl Streep, during a press conference for her upcoming film Suffragette, even stepped in to point out that 760 male critics are recognized by Rotten Tomatoes as opposed to only 168 female critics. Women in Hollywood are speaking to an audience of mostly men on their issues.
Lawrence is not known as a highly vocal, politically outspoken type of celebrity, yet she felt compelled to use her popularity and likeability as a platform to tackle this issue. Lena Dunham tells Entertainment Weekly “If Jennifer Lawrence feels this pressure, imagine what it’s like for women who don’t necessarily have that power and profile.” Lawrence’s piece speaks levels and volumes, lending her voice to women not only in the film industry but also those in the average American workplace who can be inspired by someone as elegan, and eloquent as Ms. Lawrence. While the paychecks of many film actresses are something to envy for the rest of us, remember they are fighting many of the same battles we face in our lives every day.