Yes, Jennifer Lawrence, YES!

OK, I’m a little over excited this morning but it’s not often that someone, especially someone famous with a HUGE audience, so succinctly expresses a point that is near and dear to me.

In case you haven’t heard Jennifer Lawrence published a letter on Lena Dunham’s new site, Lenny, in which she looks at the pay gap for women in Hollywood from her perspective. This could easily be a “poor me, I’m mega rich and getting ripped off” piece, but it isn’t. It’s the opposite and that’s why I love it.

First Jennifer Lawrence does point out that her problem may not be relatable because of the amount of money she makes. True, it’s on a different level, but at it’s core it is the same problem women are having who are on a more moderate pay scale. Second, she does not blame Sony pictures for her being paid less than her male costars. Instead she takes a hard look at herself and her own poor negotiating then questions if that is due to her gender. She makes some great points about wanting to be seen as nice and not bratty and giving up when negotiations got hard, not wanting to seem greedy or troublesome. YES! That’s where she nails it.

I didn’t get mad at Sony. I got mad at myself. I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early. – Jennifer Lawrence

How many of us, women, have done the same thing, over and over, day in and day out? We take less, ask for less, accept less because we don’t want to be seen as anything but nice. I have. I still do. It’s a hard habit to break but one that can be changed. The first step is naming the problem and noting our part in it.

The best thing about this article is that while she points out a problem that exists, she is also offering a solution that all women can work on to enact change. Why would Sony or anyone pay us more if we don’t ask for more, or demand it? We have to value ourselves, our work, more. This is exactly what the my post, “Make Yourself The CiC (Chick in Charge) of Your Life–Part 1” was all about. Believing in the value of our work is the problem and the solution, especially when our work is done at home, sometimes for no pay. If we don’t value our work we cannot expect others to.

Please take a minute to read the article in Lenny then ask yourself if this is you. Can you relate? Have you squelched your power and diminished your value in the name of being “nice”? I welcome your comments, ideas, opinions below. Let’s start a conversation about our value.

The Quiet Ones

I’ve always admired quiet strength–people who wield power in a way that is so subtle the source can go undetected or overlooked. It helps if these power players can hide behind a blustery front man, someone who draws all the attention, usually because they believe they’re in charge (must be yelled, while pounding on a table).

For me it all started with the nuns. In the early 1970’s I went to an all-girl, Catholic school that was run entirely by an order of nuns. Women’s lib was all over the news at the time–images of women protesting, burning their bras, joining the work force (and showing up in pants suits! gasp) The nuns didn’t protest loudly, some opted out of wearing habits, but they did so with little fanfare. On the surface they seemed almost cloistered from the changing times, but I can tell you they were revolutionaries, making huge strides for the cause of equality for women. They had a school full of females, potential future leaders in their eyes and they led by example. They ran the place, with no priest or male influence in sight. Our principal, Sr. Steppe, was a pillar of a woman who could intimidate at the Leona Helmsley level but also possessed a wicked sense of humor and a truly kind heart, which she shared with me more than once when I was (insert terror soundtrack) sent to the principal’s office for failing grades.

In general, worldwide, nuns have kept a low profile. So low that the ruling Church patriarchy ignored them, figuring them meek and weak. Ha!

For decades they used the fact that they were on the front lines for the Church, much more involved with the communities they lived and worked in than the priests, to build up the parishioners and students. They not only promoted equality to the millions of Catholic girls they taught, they also promoted acceptance for gays. In 2012 the Vatican finally paid them some attention–the angry kind, accusing them of radical feminism and undermining the Church’s teaching on the priesthood and homosexuality (AP, May 6, 2014). I’m proud to say that these women who gave me my first taste of the power of quiet strength haven’t backed down. (You go girls!!!)

Fast forward to 2014. I read a fantastic series about the King Arthur legend as told from the perspective of Guinevere. Not only did the author, Lavinia Collins, create a wonderfully-complex queen in Guinevere, she introduced me to Nimue. I love Nimue, the quiet, sweet young woman who tricks the master magician, Merlin and plays puppet master to knights and a king. Her quiet power reminded me of the nuns, of women who are overlooked and written off as having no chance of being a threat. Women who are smart enough use this to their advantage.

I’ve distilled this energy and poured the nuns and Guinevere and Nimue into the heroine of my work-in-progress, Vivienne. I’m currently writing the second book in the series where she meets her first blustery men in charge and figures out how to gain power then wield it. She’s still young at this point and like a sorcerer’s apprentice she is discovering her powers; powers she will hone and refine to create the life she wants.

Do you know of a Quiet One, someone who wields stealth power? Comment below and share their (or your) story. If you would like to support Catholic nuns in their stand against the Vatican, you can find information on The Nun Justice Project here. If you do follow up on their story, get ready to be wowed by some very wise, very strong little old ladies.