From her early days as a backup dancer in the '90s to the fiery pop powerhouse she is today, it's safe to say Jennifer Lopez knows her way around the entertainment industry. But there's one thing that has always puzzled her — the term "diva" has shadowed her throughout her stellar career, and Lopez doesn't quite understand it.
In a roundtable discussion on The Hollywood Reporter with the likes of Kerry Washington, Kirsten Dunst and other actresses, Lopez pointed out how Hollywood's expectations for men's behavior have always been lower than for women's.
"I've always been fascinated by how much more well-behaved we have to be than men," Lopez said. And the diva label, which she said she never felt was deserved, is a perfect example.
"I've always been a hard worker, on time, doing what I'm supposed to do, and getting that label because you reach a certain amount of success..." she said. "Or even sometimes I felt crippled to voice my opinion, especially because certain directors and the boys' club that they form can make you feel like, 'Oh, I can't say anything.'"
Lopez added that she saw how stark the difference was when men were tardy or being rude to a crew. She said that for men, it was "totally acceptable; meanwhile, I'd show up 15 minutes late and be berated."
The singer gave another example of a type of situation in which the double standard repeated itself:
Like, we're not allowed to have certain opinions or even be passionate about something, or they'll be like, "God, she's really difficult." It's like, "Am I? Am I difficult because I care?"
Lopez's criticism sadly isn't just applicable to the entertainment industry. Across different industries, women and men are held to different standards in the workplace — even in companies that pride themselves on being progressive.
One of the most illuminating assessments comes from Thomas Page McBee, a transgender man whose recent piece in Quartz highlighted how very differently he was treated as a male employee than as a female one. He wrote:
Every day, I am rewarded for behavior that I did not previously exhibit, such as standing up for my ideals, pushing back, being fluent in complex power dynamics, and strategically — and visibly — taking credit. When I prove myself, just once, it tends to stick.
What's considered drive in men is seen as aggression (the bad kind) in women. Passionate women are labeled pushy, bossy, or difficult. Particularly in traditionally male professions — like those in Hollywood, which also has the distinction of being run by older white men — implicit gender bias, though not as rampant as the sexism of decades past, has a devastating effect on women in the workplace.