So, let’s talk about Jennifer Lawrence.
Lawrence became a household name for her critically and publicly acclaimed role as the title character Katniss Everdeen in the film adaption of "The Hunger Games." The role kickstarted her career, and she has been featured in numerous movies since. Her talent and success is not a secret.
Recently, Lawrence published an essay raising the question: why does she get paid less than her male costars?
“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. 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."
Women, such as U.N. Women’s Ambassador and actress Emma Watson, have expressed their praise over Lawrence’s statement. Watson herself made a speech explaining how feminism isn’t man-hating in 2014.
But, let’s talk about the wage gap.
The wage gap issue has been brought up by women in Hollywood (i.e. Meryl Streep at this year’s Oscars) before. On average in the U.S., women make 77 cents to a man’s dollar. In 2013, Forbes found in that year, the top 10 women in Hollywood made two-and-a-half times less than the top 10 men.
However, there is much more to the wage gap that Lawrence and many others are missing. The gap is not only a gender issue; race factors in as well. White women will make more than Black and Latina/Hispanic women. According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW), Black women averaged 64 cents to a white man’s dollar, and Latina/Hispanic women averaged 53 cents to a white man’s dollar.
Now, let’s talk about white feminism.
White feminism is defined as “a brand of feminism centered around the ideals and struggles of primarily white women.”
“White feminism” does not necessarily mean it’s solely practiced by white women, but rather a branch of feminism lacking intersectionality. Many celebrity feminists such as Lena Dunham, Emma Watson, Taylor Swift, and Miley Cyrus are examples of how white feminism becomes more recognized than intersectional feminism.
The problem isn’t necessarily what Jennifer Lawrence is saying, as she’s writing from her own personal experience, rather, the response is. Media organizations are covering her essay as a huge step in feminism...the truth is, her essay isn’t. Not only is she publishing an essay in a white feminist’s (Lena Dunham) newsletter, she is also not addressing the issue as a whole.
Responses have been positive for the most part, but Lawrence will not be labelled as “angry” holistically. For example, in July 2015 when Nicki Minaj expressed her displeasure with the music industry not adequately awarding black artists, white artists and the media called her out and characterized her under the “Angry Black Woman” stereotype. Or, when Viola Davis made the same speech as Lawrence at the 2015 Emmys, no white celebrities praised her like they praised Lawrence. Issues of mainstream feminism do not need white women to validate--this is why we have intersectionality.
Lawrence is not public with her feminism, but the overarching views of her essay once again prove the belittlement of women of color in feminism. The wage gap affects women of color between 10 and 20 percent more than white women. It’s important Lawrence learns this, because her influence could make more of an impact than it does now.