The World Is Freaking Out About Jennifer Lawrence’s Dress, So Let’s Unpack This Shit
It's a very good dress.
Yesterday, Jennifer Lawrence wore a dress. Not just any dress. A Versace dress. And, in the last 24 hours, this clothing choice has become a major international news item.
At a promotional event for Red Sparrow, the upcoming spy thriller she stars in, Lawrence stepped out for a photo on the balcony of a London hotel with her co-stars Joel Edgerton, Jeremy Irons, Matthias Schoenaerts, and director Francis Lawrence.
The men in the photo are rugged up in coats and jumpers; Lawrence’s dress has a large slit up the leg and does not have sleeves. Temperatures in London this week have hovered somewhere between -3 and 6 degrees celsius.
The photo quickly went viral. The response was, basically, this:
This is such a quietly depressing (and revealing) image. Not least because I’ve been outside today and it’s bloody FREEZING. pic.twitter.com/BRnmgKJ5wY
— Helen Lewis (@helenlewis) February 20, 2018
The general take out from the photo was that it perfectly captured what it means to be a woman in Hollywood: suffering to look good while your male co-stars are afforded comfort. Which is a reasonable analysis, but not one shared by the woman at the centre of #DressGate 2.0.
“This is not only utterly ridiculous, I am extremely offended,” she wrote. “That Versace dress was fabulous, you think I’m going to cover that gorgeous dress up with a coat and a scarf? I was outside for 5 minutes.”
“This is sexist, this is ridiculous, this is not feminism… get a grip people.”
It’s also worth considering that Lawrence has previously stated that she signed on for Red Sparrow because she wanted reclaim her sexuality after private photos of her were leaked online in 2014.
“Red Sparrow was sexual, and I haven’t done anything sexy or sexual. I’ve been afraid of that since 2014, when I got my pictures hacked,” Lawrence told Oprah Winfrey in an interview for The Hollywood Reporter. “I just thought, ‘I’ll never do that again. I’ll never share that part of myself ever since it got shared against my will’. And then when I said yes to Red Sparrow, I felt I was taking something back.”
It’s a complex situation, but it has lead to some very funny tweets:
“if i want to be cold that’s my choice” wave feminism
— maddie holden (@winningprotocol) February 21, 2018
So How Am I Supposed To Feel About All This?
There’s a lot to unpack here.
Did the media needlessly shame J Law for wearing something she wanted to wear and, in doing so, subject her to another round of commentary about her body? Or does J Law’s choice really matter when she, and we, know that women have to adhere to certain beauty standards to succeed?
It’s hard to deny that Hollywood has a double standard, and that female actors are regularly expected to use their bodies as ornaments and currency. But isn’t it also condescending and very sexist to suggest that women are silly for enjoying fashion? And, um, does any of this really matter?
Lawrence isn’t afraid of calling Hollywood out on it’s bullshit, and we don’t have any reason to suggest she was compelled to wear the dress, either explicitly or through more subtle entertainment industry conditioning.
The fact that some people are now comparing her to refugees getting on rickety boats suggests the whole thing has got to be A Bit Much:
Essentially, kneejerking to “maybe it’s her choice!” is a good way of ducking a whole discussion of how society shapes and limits our choices. Refugees *choose* to get on rickety boats across the Mediterranean. That doesn’t make it empowering.
— Helen Lewis (@helenlewis) February 21, 2018
Our take? It’s a very good dress.