Jennifer Lawrence received a Golden Globe, a BAFTA award and her third Oscar nomination for her performance in “American Hustle.” But the period crime drama has also become an albatross for the hyper-accomplished actress since the Sony hack, which revealed that Lawrence and Amy Adams, a five-time Oscar nominee, were paid less than their three male co-stars.
The Sony hack made Lawrence the inadvertent poster child for Hollywood’s pay gap — a state of affairs the actress has stayed quiet about, until now. In a brief, dense and passionate essay for Lena Dunham’s Lenny newsletter, Lawrence is honest about how she didn’t fight for more money because A) she didn’t need it and B) she was afraid of appearing “difficult” and “spoiled.” But now, “I’m over trying to find the ‘adorable’ way to state my opinion and still be likable,” she declared. “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.”
Here are the five most frank and feminist things Lawrence wrote in her Lenny letter about women, ambition, money and that ever-fraught game of “likability”:
1. She knows that the Hollywood pay gap is more symbolic than representative of most women’s struggles: “It’s hard for me to speak about my experience as a working woman because I can safely say my problems aren’t exactly relatable. … I didn’t want to keep fighting over millions of dollars that, frankly, due to two franchises, I [didn’t] need. (I told you it wasn’t relatable, don’t hate me).”
2. But she blames herself for not demanding more money: “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.” As a frequent collaborator with “American Hustle” director David O. Russell, Lawrence might have been that rare bird who wouldn’t or couldn’t easily be replaced by a less expensive candidate.
3. She reveals she was afraid to ask for more because she felt she couldn’t be both ambitious and likable: “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. I didn’t want to seem ‘difficult’ or ‘spoiled.’ At the time, that seemed like a fine idea, until I saw the payroll on the Internet and realized every man I was working with definitely didn’t worry about being ‘difficult’ or ‘spoiled.’ This could be a young-person thing. It could be a personality thing. I’m sure it’s both. But this is an element of my personality that I’ve been working against for years, and based on the statistics, I don’t think I’m the only woman with this issue. … Could there still be a lingering habit of trying to express our opinions in a certain way that doesn’t ‘offend’ or ‘scare’ men?”
4. Even giving her opinion in a “blunt” way has gotten her blowback from some men: “A few weeks ago at work, I spoke my mind and gave my opinion in a clear and no-bullshit way; no aggression, just blunt. The man I was working with (actually, he was working for me) said, ‘Whoa! We’re all on the same team here!’ As if I was yelling at him. I was so shocked because nothing that I said was personal, offensive, or, to be honest, wrong. All I hear and see all day are men speaking their opinions, and I give mine in the same exact manner, and you would have thought I had said something offensive.”
5. And she’s fucking over it: “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.”