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Jennifer Lawrence Hits A Nerve With Essay On Hollywood's Gender Pay Gap

The criticism Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence has lobbed at herself for not pushing for a higher fee to star in the film American Hustle is reverberating in Hollywood and beyond.

In an essay for Lena Dunham's Lenny Letter e-newsletter, Lawrence explained that after the Sony hack — which revealed documents showing Lawrence had earned significantly less than her male co-stars Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper — she didn't get mad at the studio.

"I got mad at myself," Lawrence wrote. "I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early."

The star of the Hunger Games franchise said she hesitated to negotiate aggressively because she didn't want to come across as abrasive or too demanding — a fear, she mused, that probably is linked to gender conditioning. Lawrence wrote: "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 definitely didn't worry about being 'difficult' or 'spoiled.' "

She adds: "I'm over trying to find the 'adorable' way to state my opinion and still be likable!"

It's worth noting that Lawrence tops Forbes' 2015 list of the world's highest-paid actresses.

Her comments have elicited huzzahs from other actors. Harry Potter franchise star Emma Watson commended Lawrence on Twitter. And Bradley Cooper — who has co-starred with Lawrence in films such as The Silver Linings Playbook, for which she won an Oscar — supported her stance during an interview with E! News.

Some of the praise was qualified, however. A post on the website Flavorwire points out that having wealthy celebrities emerge as spokesmen for pay equity can be problematic. It adds:

"Some danger lurks in the 'wage gap' issue being co-opted from a life-or-death matter to a cause célèbre of celebs who already make millions. When these powerful women and actresses use ideas and lingo that were invented by on-the-ground activists, they bear a certain responsibility to transmit the entire message they're appropriating. In recent years, even the most mainstream women's organizations have made a huge effort to point out that the wage gap increases dramatically for black and Latina women, and that those extra dollars mean a lot more to the family that is struggling to buy diapers, put food on the table, or pay for daycare or night school than to people in high-powered professions. From the suddenly 'empowered' women of Hollywood, we hear very little of these extra dimensions."

Other actors have found that venturing into activism territory can be fraught. Just last week, Meryl Streep came in for criticism for wearing a T-shirt bearing the phrase "I'd rather be a rebel than a slave" as she promoted her new film Suffragette. Critics pointed out that the comment could be construed as a reference to the Confederate South, blaming slaves for their enslavement.

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