Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Stone, Allison Janney, Mary J. Blige, Jessica Chastain, and Saoirse Ronan are the actresses featured in The Hollywood Reporter's annual dramatic actress roundtable this year, and the six women used the opportunity to have a candid back and forth about the reports on—and their experiences with—sexual harassment and assault in the industry and beyond.
The entire thing is worth a read, but its most powerful exchange was the women's discussion about those who haven't spoken yet.
Emma Stone: I'm someone who holds in a lot and gets really nervous to speak. We have to recognize that there are so many who haven't told their stories yet, who aren't comfortable to share. I feel so much compassion for those who are still getting up and going to work every day with their abuser or have had abuse in their past and who are not ready to say anything. And putting pressure on women to share it, you know, 'If you're not saying it now, then you're complicit in this evil that's occurring,' isn't fair.
Mary J. Blige: A lot of people are not ready. When you're young and you want to be an artist and you want to be an actress, there are people that threaten you to do certain things. And sometimes you [experience] sexual harassment, but you don't know it is.
At this point, Lawrence shared that her job was threatened when she stood up for herself for the first time:
Jennifer Lawrence: Sometimes—I've had this happen: I finally made the decision to stand up for myself, and then I went to go to the bathroom at work and one of the producers stopped me and was like, 'You know, we can hear you on the microphone, you've been really unruly.' Which was not true, but basically my job was threatened because the director said something fucked up to me and I said, 'That's sick, you can't talk to me like that,' and then I was punished, and I got afraid that I wasn't going to be hired again.
Stone: Yeah, you were 'difficult.'
Lawrence: Yeah, I was called difficult and a nightmare. I think a lot of people aren't coming forward because they're afraid they're not going to work again. You need to be able to say, 'This is wrong' and have somebody do something about it instead of saying, 'Oh, it's wrong? Well, you're fired.'
The group agreed that equal pay is an important step in changing the power dynamics. For Lawrence, speaking up (via her Lenny essay in 2015) has made a bit of a difference. 'It's much easier for me now to be paid fairly,' she said. 'The reason I spoke out about it [after the Sony hack revealed she was paid less than her male American Hustle co-stars] was really—we're in the industry, everybody is looking at us, if we're going through this, every woman in the world is going through this. But the real problem is the normalisation of it. It's the reason why your agents don't think twice about paying you a third of your [co-star's paycheck] because it's been so normalised for so long.'
Read the full round table here.