Jennifer Lawrence doesn’t care about being likable anymore. Photo: Getty Images
Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence is ready to stand up for herself, and she’s not apologizing. In an essay titled ‘Why Do I Make Less Than My Male Costars?’ published Tuesday morning in Lena Dunham’s Lenny newsletter, Lawrence talks feminism, Hollywood’s sexist pay disparity, and what she’s changing in order to be equal in her career. In the piece, Lawrence opens up on how she felt when it was revealed that Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, and Christian Bale got nine percent of the profits of American Hustle, while she and Amy Adams got seven percent. “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,” admits Lawrence. “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.”
Amy Pascal, the former co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, who was fired after the Sony hack, also put the blame on Lawrence and other female actors for the pay disparity (conveniently avoiding blame). “I’ve paid [Lawrence] a lot more money since then, I promise you,” she reportedly told Tina Brown during a panel at the Women in the World conference. “The truth is, what women have to do is not work for less money. They have to walk away. People shouldn’t be so grateful for jobs … people should know what they’re worth."
Lawrence says she did some soul searching to figure out why she didn’t negotiate harder for herself. She realized that wanting to be likable was a big part of the problem. “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,” Lawrence writes. “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.”
Worrying about what people think and being desperate to please, are issues so many women in business grapple with. They are also concepts that most men just don’t think about. It’s what Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg founded her entire Lean In movement on. Sandberg calls it the “likability penalty.” “As women get more powerful, they get less likeable. I see women holding themselves back because of this, but if we start talking about the success-likeability penalty women face, then we can do something about it,” Sandberg says.
Lawrence has starred in some of Hollywood’s biggest franchises including X-Men and Hunger Games. According to Forbes she is the highest paid actress in Hollywood earning a reported $52 million last year. So if anyone has negotiating power it should be the 25-year-old star. The fact that one of the biggest female stars working today is having trouble getting equal pay says something about the way Hollywood works. Imagine what it’s like for actresses without Lawrence’s box-office clout.
Lawrence writes that she’s no longer going to back down when expressing her opinion or negotiating. She’s going to act just like the men at the table. “I’m over trying to find the “adorable” way to state my opinion and still be likable! F*** 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,” Lawrence says. “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.”
It seems that Lawrence has already stuck to her guns to get her fair share. In May, the Hollywood Reporter wrote that Lawrence was reportedly ready to walk away if she didn’t get $20 million for the interstellar love story Passengers.
Lawrence admits that she’s dealing with a problem of the one percent, “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.” In her essay, when she admits that it’s millions of dollars that she’s talking about, the actress adds, “(I told you it wasn’t relatable, don’t hate me).” Clearly she still wants to be likable, but more importantly Lawrence has added her powerful voice to the table. Movie Studio heads better get ready, Lawrence is ready to negotiate. She knows what she’s worth.