[Updated] Mind the Gap: the Jennifer Lawrence Essay Asks if Your Pay Check is Fair, Bradley Cooper Answers “No, Let Me Help”

But does that help or hurt? Rachel Zuckerman looks into it

10.20.15
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Last week, Jennifer Lawrence wrote an essay for Lenny Letter that bluntly and pointedly called Hollywood out on its sexism and its antiquated habit of paying female actors woefully less than their male counterparts. In response to it, Leandra and Amelia published a text message conversation (featured below) that begged the question: what now?

Though Lawrence wasn’t the first person to make a point about the wage gap, her message was delivered with the kind of inspiring grit and rigor that makes you want to get involved.

The media’s response was swift and predictable, but would the moment produce an action element?

Cue Bradley Cooper.

Faster than you can say, “I volunteer as tribute,” Bradley Cooper announced that he would join his female co-stars at the negotiating table so that they’d know how much he’s getting paid before they ink their own deals.

Initially, my reaction was “You go Bradley Cooper!” Leandra says her underwear practically came undone when she realized the most attractive man in America is also a feminist. But what quickly and almost simultaneously followed, for me at least, was this feeling that his pledge maintained an element of knight-in-shining-armor-comes-to-rescue-the-princess. Is the problem really being solved because someone who allegedly wields more power based on his gender is going to join you at the negotiating table?

I know it’s not that simple and it’s definitely commendable that Cooper would use his status to enact change where he can, but I feel a little conflicted.

Jennifer Lawrence’s piece exuded bad-ass, no-holds-barred independence. We all need help in doing something for the first time, but I’m feeling like this is a “teach a person to fish” type of thing.

Salary transparency needs to be the status quo, but so too does making sure young women (really, all women) have the necessary skills to not only recognize and speak up when they are being paid less for equal work but to also broach the question of asking for a raise.

I feel incredibly lucky to have benefited and continue to benefit from amazing female mentors who have helped me learn how to “lean in.” But it shouldn’t come down to luck.

With all the things we learn in school under the guise of life skills (we’re literally taught how to boil water), is it crazy to think that “How to Talk to Your Boss 101” should be incorporated somewhere along the way?

Celebrity endorsed social change is great and gives a powerful springboard to vital yet overlooked issues. But we’re all responsible for action.

If nothing else, don’t forget, your vote speaks loudly, and I hear there’s a pretty big election coming up…

Rachel Zuckerman

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Collage by Krista Anna Lewis

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