Have you guys signed up for Lena Dunham’s Lenny newsletter? Do you know about it? Do you care? Your inbox, your choice. But this week, Jennifer Lawrence was the latest to contribute. And what she had to say was pretty on-point/interesting/great.
In the letter’s third issue, the actress penned an essay called, “Why Do I Make Less Than My Male Co-Stars?” where she full-on, straight-up asked that question.
“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 fight,” she said, recalling her contract for American Hustle — a.k.a. the movie in which Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale, and Bradley Cooper all earned millions more than her. “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 didn’t worry about being ‘difficult’ or ‘spoiled.'”
“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,” she continued. “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 I said was personal, offensive, or, to be honest, wrong. All I hear and see are men speaking their opinions, and I give mine in the same exact manner, and you would have thought I had said something so offensive.”
But it’s this line I like in particular:
“I’m over trying to find the ‘adorable’ way to state my opinion and still be likeable! 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.”
Because, like, duh. At 30, it’s very, very recently where my exhaustion (a.k.a. because being a human woman is tiring) has outweighed my need to be likeable or “accessible” to men. For too long I’ve worried about presenting myself in a way that doesn’t scare men, or in a way that doesn’t make men uncomfortable — whether that be by dulling down my hair/makeup/personal style, or doing the opposite. I’ve sat in rooms afraid to speak up so I didn’t seem “bossy” or “arrogant,” or while men spoke over me. And instead of following my instinct (and saying, “Shut the fuck up, I’m talking now”), I “waited my turn” to “be polite.”
“I’m new,” I remember thinking. “I should just sit back and learn.”
But also: no, not that new. And considering I’d been working with men who were just as new as I’ve been, I’m confident in saying they were totally not as worried about seeming anything but right/the best while they spoke up. Also, I’m not sure any man I know has ever told me they’ve been worried about what other people at work have thought — they just said what they were thinking, and that was that. So you can imagine my own surprise that when I’ve stepped up to say what I’ve been thinking, and have subsequently greeted with, “Oh whoa, hey!” (as if I’m demanding they hand over their cash without calling the police), it’s a little off-putting.
Especially because it’s so tiring to give a shit. And they say that when you’re tuckered out, something usually has to go. So I’ve elected for my own need to be “liked” and/or “adorable” (as Lawrence so accurately put it) be the thing I don’t do anymore. Am I still learning how to negotiate money? Yep — because I was raised in the realm of “be grateful for what you have.” (But learning is an important step, so there’s that.) But I think I’m ready to just be myself. And being myself means being loud, and bossy, and demanding, and asking a lot of questions, and sarcastic, and standing up for myself or somebody else when I need to. None of which I think are bad.
Because again: guys are absolutely not having these conversations. Guys aren’t worrying about anything but getting what they want. And that isn’t a generalization, and that isn’t a bad thing, either — they’ve just been raised with confidence reserved for men. But now I’m into tapping into our own confidence. Or, at the very least, I’m willing for us to abandon that backpack-filled-with-rocks called, “Caring so much about what people think.” Which, in turn, breeds confidence. The kind, as Lawrence said, is the type that helps us say, “Fuck that.”