MARY RUTH NAGEL ’18
This week, not unlike many others, Jennifer Lawrence was all over the headlines. Lately, however, her box office hits and perfectly candid interviews were not what dominated the airwaves.
As a result of last year’s Sony hack, the personal information and photographs of many celebrities were leaked. Part of this leaked information included the payroll records of many major films, revealing that, in multiple films, Jennifer Lawrence, and other female actors, were paid significantly less than male costars.
Earlier this week, Lawrence released an essay discussing her opinion of the issue.
So what attracted so much attention to Lawrence’s essay as opposed to the hundreds of others written daily? Much like her interviews, Lawrence’s essay was humorous and fun, while still getting her point across. Additionally, Lawrence’s response could be shocking to some. She writes, “When the Sony hack happened and I found out how much less I was being paid than the lucky people with d***s, I didn’t get mad at Sony. I got mad at myself. I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early.”
Lawrence goes on to explain that she often did not negotiate higher pay in fear of being percieved as difficult or a spoiled brat. While Lawrence does acknowledge that men in the same situation would be less likely to be called a diva or a brat and would likely even be applauded for negotiating a higher pay, she does something that many feminists do not do. She realizes that some of the blame is on herself.
I have never referred to myself as a feminist, but that is not to say I do not fully believe in the power of being a woman.
I grew up in a family of five kids, four of whom are girls. Both of my parents work for FirstPRO, a staffing company with multiple offices nationwide which my mother founded. When FirstPRO is in a magazine, it is my mother’s face on the cover, not my father’s. While their employees do call my dad “Boss,” they call my mom “Big Boss.” I grew up surrounded by living proof that a woman can be the boss in a “man’s world.”
I disagree with a common view of feminism. When it comes to the gender wage gap, women are not helpless victims in a situation that men need to change.
That is where Jennifer Lawrence hits the nail on the head. Had she continued to negotiate a higher price, would she have been called a brat? Certainly. Is she more likely to be called a brat than her male costars? Maybe so. But if more women began negotiating for the pay they think they deserve whatever that may be, it would become a cultural norm rather than a reason to call a woman a brat.
It is much like the joke in school, “If we all break the rule they cannot kick us all out!” If all women unapologetically asserted themselves in the workplace, they would not be singled out. Although arguably unconventional, Lawrence’s essay should be the definition of feminism. She is right: a large reason for her lower pay is her own fault. Many disagree, arguing that employers should adjust women’s pay to equal that of men’s, but employers are going to pay the least that they can to get the job done, that is just business sense.
If feminism truly is about the power of women, the most “feminist” thing a woman could do would be to take action and negotiate a higher salary herself, rather than sit idly by and complain about being the victim of a wage gap. Women are not the victims of big mean men. Women succeed in the workplace all of the time, owning companies and becoming the boss. The ones who do succeed aren’t afraid to take action and risk critisism on their way up.
In the wise words of Beyoncé, “I’m not bossy. I’m the boss.” Until powerful women are not expected to apologize for strength, and until assertiveness is no longer surprising, these classic debates will only continue.
MARY RUTH NAGEL ’18