Jennifer Lawrence Couldn't Care Less About Being Likable—She Wants Equal Pay

In a candid essay, the actor tackled the gender wage gap and blamed herself for not negotiating.
Jennifer Lawrence at Comic-Con International 2015. (Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)
Oct 13, 2015· 2 MIN READ
Jennifer Swann is TakePart’s culture and lifestyle reporter.

From dancing on Billy Joel's piano with Amy Schumer this summer to giving Aziz Ansari a piggyback ride last weekend, Jennifer Lawrence is easily one of the most likable celebrities on the planet—a survey commissioned last year by The Wrap confirmed her standing as the most popular woman in film.

But the 25-year-old Hunger Games star is done being likable, at least when it comes to negotiating her salary. That's one takeaway from her frank and conversational essay tackling sexism, pay equality, and gender bias in Tuesday's edition of Lenny, an email newsletter launched last month by fellow actor and writer Lena Dunham and Girls executive producer Jenni Konner.

RELATED: Jennifer Lawrence Is Among the Highest-Paid Actors, but Hollywood Still Can't Hack the Gender Pay Gap

"I'm over trying to find the 'adorable' way to state my opinion and still be likeable!" wrote the X-Men: Apocalypse actor, following an anecdote about how she'd spoken up at work recently, only to be greeted with backlash from a male colleague. "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," she added, pinpointing what she sees as a clear double standard between how men and women are perceived, particularly in business. "It's just heard."

Perhaps the biggest example of a gender bias in Hollywood—and surely in other industries too—came to light during last year's Sony hack, which exposed that Lawrence and her female costar Amy Adams had both been paid significantly less than their male costars for their work in American Hustle, according to leaked emails. While Lawrence and Adams were each entitled to 7 percent of the movie's total profits, Jeremy Renner, Bradley Cooper, and Christian Bale each took in 9 percent—a sizable disparity considering that the movie grossed more than $251 million worldwide.

"Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale, and Bradley Cooper all fought and succeeded in negotiating powerful deals for themselves," Lawrence wrote, addressing the Sony hack. "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."

Lawrence entertains the idea that maybe she's just being paranoid. It's entirely possible that her fear of speaking up about pay has nothing to do with her gender and everything to do with her age. But leaked emails show there's reason for her suspicions: When fellow Oscar winner Angelina Jolie, 40, opted out of a Sony project to direct Unbroken instead, producer Scott Rudin slammed her as a "minimally talented spoiled brat."

It could be easy to dismiss Lawrence because of her standing as one of the highest-paid actors in Hollywood—"I can safely say my problems aren't exactly relatable," she admits—except that she's not alone in her struggle to negotiate and achieve pay equal to her male colleagues'. Nationwide, women disproportionately earn less than men for doing similar work across nearly all industries. Women who work full-time make an average of 78 percent of their male counterparts' salaries, with women of color earning just 64 percent and Latina women earning just 56 percent of what white men earn, according to White House statistics.

Lawrence concludes that when she found out her pal Cooper was getting paid substantially more money than her for the same movie, she wasn't mad at Sony—she was mad at herself for not speaking up. "I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early," she wrote.

While equal-pay advocates have long weighed the pros and cons of negotiating, studies show that women engage in the practice far less frequently than their male counterparts do, whether it's because they want to be likable, as Lawrence suggested, or for any other reason. Just 7 percent of women attempted to negotiate their offers, compared with 57 percent of men, according to a widely cited Carnegie Mellon survey of graduating professional students.

Under California's newly passed Fair Pay Act, which goes into effect in 2016, women can take legal action against an employer if they suspect their male coworkers are getting paid more money for substantially similar work—regardless of job titles. The question is whether it will take another corporate email hack to expose inequality.