Jennifer Lawrence is done trying to be likable.
In a post on Lena Dunham’s new site, Lenny Letter, the actress calls out Hollywood for its unequal treatment of women. She’s not the only person to make this argument. Geena Davis has built a second career fighting for equal rights in Hollywood, and Meryl Streep tells anyone who will listen that women are earning less. We’ll get to her talk on pay in a second, but one section that really stood out for many women was where she wrote about how she was treated when she spoke her mind in meetings.
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.
Lawrence says she’s done worrying about whether people like her and trying to find an “adorable” way to state her opinion so she doesn’t offend the men in the room.
First off, obviously, fuck yeah, JLaw. Lawrence is arguably the most powerful actress in Hollywood right now. She should be stating her mind clearly and directly in every meeting without worrying about what other people think. In the immortal words of Nicki Minaj, JLaw is about to become a Boss Ass Bitch.
Women in many different industries can relate to Lawrence’s concerns about how she’s being perceived in meetings. We are all trying to walk that line between leaning in at the table and not being labeled a difficult bitch by the men in the room.
After the Lenny story came out, an article from The Washington Post circulated titled “Famous Quotes, The Way A Woman Would Have To Say Them During A Meeting.” So, “Give me liberty or give me death,” becomes: “Dave, if I could, I could just — I just really feel like if we had liberty it would be terrific, and the alternative would just be awful, you know? That’s just how it strikes me. I don’t know.”
That’s funny, but it’s also sadly the way many women do end up talking in meetings in the hopes of being heard and not being frozen out by the easily offended men in the room.
I don’t know that all women have Lawrence’s luxury of being able to use a strong voice to make powerful changes though. Many women still work in workplaces where being a strong women can backfire.
This made me think a lot about Sheryl Sandberg, Anne-Marie Slaughter and their different perspectives on how women can have an equal voice in business. Sandberg is focused on the power of women to change the way they interact in the office. Slaughter talks more about the need for major systemic changes that reflect the reality that more women, and men, want a better work-life balance which would be based around women being treated as equals in the workplace and men embracing more care giving responsibilities.
Of course, to make those systemic changes we need more women in leadership positions, but women probably can’t rise to the boss level unless they push like men. It’s a frustrating Catch-22. But one thing is clear: We definitely need the Jennifer Lawrences of the world to be the ones to stand up and be heard because they can.
Then there’s this. I’d like to say that Lawrence’s American Hustle pay-inequality problem wouldn’t have happened if a woman had been in charge, but a woman was in charge. Amy Pascal, an outspoken advocate for paying women the same as men, was in charge at the time.
Now there may actually be legitimate reasons why Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars. If you saw American Hustle, you may have noticed she had significantly less screen time than Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper. She only worked 19 days on the movie while her male colleagues worked about 45 days each.
But Amy Adams also got paid less, and she worked about the same number of days as the men. Pascal didn’t stand up for either of those women. In fact, when she later addressed the issue she blamed Lawrence and her ilk for not fighting harder for more money. (I think it was really up to Lawrence’s agent to fight for more money, but that’s besides the point.)
I think this is much more the heart of the problem. If women don’t support each other and have each other’s backs, what hope is there that men will?