Arts, Movies, Column

Lawrence, Emma Watson, And Finding Modern Feminism

This week, Jennifer Lawrence published an essay entitled, “Why Do I Make Less Than My Male Co-Stars?” on Lena Denham’s new blog, Lenny. In the essay, Lawrence expresses her disdain for a society in which “all I hear and see all day are men speaking their opinions, and I give mine in the same exact manner, and you would have thought I had said something offensive.” The title of the essay stems from last year’s Sony hack, where it was revealed that her male counterparts in David O. Russell’s American Hustle were making millions more than she was, for the simple fact that they were men and she wasn’t.

Lawrence touches on her experience in discovering this, saying, “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.” She claims the reason for her hesitance was that, “I didn’t want to seem ‘difficult’ or ‘spoiled.’”

In the few days since the essay surfaced, Lawrence has been heralded by men and women alike for finally taking a stance on gender inequality. Many criticized Lawrence for not acknowledging Sony’s actions earlier, but in taking time, she more effectively supports an entire cause, rather than focus on a single incident.

Her counterpart across the Atlantic, in terms of feminism and the adoration of young men, is certainly Emma Watson, who spoke in front of the United Nations last year in support of changing the approach to feminism. Watson is right when she claims that the word “feminist” makes a woman appeal “too strong, too aggressive, isolating, anti-men and, unattractive,all of the perceptions Lawrence was hoping to avoid in her negotiations over salary.

In her essay, Lawrence asks readers, “Could there still be a lingering habit of trying to express our opinions in a certain way that doesn’t ‘offend’ or ‘scare’ men?” But Watson finds fault with the notion that the gender equality fight is one exclusively for women. She asks, “How can we affect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feel welcome to participate in the conversation?

Just as women are placed into gender stereotypes, so too are men. Watson argues, “If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled.”

Lawrence brings much-needed attention to a relevant societal flaw, but it’s also important to distinguish that this problem does not only exist in Hollywood. It permeates through every industry, in every society, in every country around the world.

After explaining her desire to be liked instead of standing up for what she deserved, Lawrence wonders, “Are we socially conditioned to behave this way?” Without a doubt, we are. But men, too, are socially conditioned to expect women to respond a certain submissive way as well. There’s no chance this fight can be won without the help of “feminist” men who are willing to change the perception of what masculinity means to them.

Perhaps the reason this gender disparity persists isn’t the integrity of the man but the language that is used to describe men and women today. While men use certain names to describe that make them sound difficult or cold-hearted, like “bitch” or “slut,” there isn’t a male equivalent of these words. And the worst words you can call a man are usually implying they have a higher level of femininity than other men.

Since Watson’s speech last year, her influence has been prominent on social media with her #HeForShe campaign, which encourages men to stand up for gender equality. It’s certainly a start, but living on a college campus, the notion of masculinity still often seems to include dominance and aggression. From the dating and hookup culture at BC to the condescending CSOM guys, it isn’t hard to find.

Lawrence is arguably the most famous woman in the world right now. If anyone can get this fight rolling, it’s her. She has made a fortune on being quirky and relatable. Come this winter, with lead roles in David O. Russell’s Joy and the final Hunger Games, her face will be on every billboard and in every magazine all over the world. Here’s to hoping she continues fighting.

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October 18, 2015