Dear Jennifer: How is pay inequality your fault because you aren’t a good negotiagtor?

jennifer lawrence

“Dear Jennifer:

Let me start by saying, I adore you.  You are smart, funny, unpredictable, awkward, goofy, charming, and in a different universe I think we’d be amazing friends.  But as much as I admire you for taking a stand on pay inequality in Hollywood, it bothers the hell out of me that you have decided getting paid less than your male co-stars was your fault because you weren’t a good negotiator.  That’s like saying it your fault your boyfriend cheated on you  with your best friend when you were out of town because you shouldn’t have left the two of them alone. 

Trust me honey, you  didn’t create wage and gender discrimination.  When was I your age, I met the first woman to bring a sexual discrimination suit to the Supreme Court.  She had a Masters Degree in economics from Harvard University and she lost an associate professor position to a man with a bachelor’s degree because “when you get married and have kids, your husband will take care of you”. 

By assuming responsibility for receiving less pay than your fellow actors,  you are also assuming they got more money than you did because they were tougher than you are.  “Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper all fought and succeeded in getting powerful deals for themselves” you wrote in your recent New York Times essay.  “If anything I am sure they were commended for being fierce and tactical, while I was busy worrying about not being a brat and coming across as not getting my fair share.” 

I seriously doubt anyone thought they were being either fierce or tactical for one very simple reason. Your co-stars did not negotiate their salaries themselves.  If they had, you might have a point.  Instead, their agents, managers and lawyers made sure their clients got as much money as possible, because the more money a client makes, the more money an agency makes.   If Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Renner got more money than you did, could it be that their representatives went to the bargaining table confident that their clients were worth whatever they were asking?  

What about the studio, who offered less money to Amy Adams as well?  Is she at fault for neglecting to get paid the same as her co-stars?    The producer and director both knew the two of you were being paid less than your male co-stars, yet they did nothing to rectify the situation.  In fact, if it hadn’t been for the email hack, everyone would have gone on paying you less because that’s just the way it is in America.

If you want to take responsibility for anything, it’s for believing in the people who were supposed to have your back.  It’s their job to protect you and they didn’t do it.   I will never understand why there is a price to pay for being a woman with the guts to ask for what she wants, to stick with what she believes in, and to refuse to take responsibility for the actions of others, and while  I stand shoulder to shoulder with the actors and women who applaud you for standing up for yourself by writing that essay in the New York Times in the first place, I hate the fact that you think that because people took advantage of you it’s your fault they felt within their rights to do it. 

I hate the fact that people think, since you make millions, you have no right to complain about wage inequality when the man standing beside you made twice what you did because he has a Y chromosome and you don’t. Most of all, I hate the fact that thirty eight years after I first discovered that women make thirty percent less than men, an incredibly gifted young woman thinks she is to blame for making less money than a man because she didn’t negotiate fiercely enough.

Whether you make $100 a day, or a million, you shouldn’t have to apologize for centuries of systemic inequality because you were afraid of being seen as a brat.  You didn’t create the rules that corporate America plays by.   Stop blaming yourself because you weren’t a better negotiator and demand some accountability from the society you live in.  And if you ever need anyone to remind you of your worth, give me a call.  Because I think you are awesome.

Sincerely,

Denise

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