Criticism of Jennifer Lawrence’s Drinking Is Sexist and Pathetic, But Also Unsurprising

Dear Jennifer Lawrence

Yesterday, Esquire writer Ned Hepburn published an open letter to actress Jennifer Lawrence, and, in the long tradition of open letters (celebrity-related or otherwise), it fucking sucked. Which, sure. That makes sense, right? Anyone who thinks highly enough of themselves to think that they have the right to give advice to someone they don’t even know, it sort of goes without saying that such a person will only be able to offer words that are, at best, vaguely condescending and probably smarmy, and are, at worst (as is the case here!), misogynistic and explicitly patronizing. 

In a recent interview, Jennifer Lawrence spoke about her infamous fall at the 2013 Academy Awards, recounting that she had been intoxicated during the Awards show, and later wound up vomiting at an Oscars after-party. While there really shouldn’t be anything inherently surprising about a young adult drinking to excess on a celebratory night, because Lawrence is a woman, and because all men many in the media enjoy nothing more than shaming women for behaving in ways for which men more often than not get celebrated, Hepburn took upon himself the task of warning Lawrence against straying down a dangerous path.

Hepburn’s letter is remarkable if only because he managed to hit upon every single possible way that men traditionally use to diminish the confidence and self-worth of powerful women, from bestowing upon Lawrence a familiar nickname (“Hey Jennifer. Can I call you Jenny? Okay. Jenny.”) to comparing her to someone with whom she shares nothing in common other than the condition of being female (“Don’t be Sean Young”) to mocking the fact that Lawrence might not have eaten very much leading up to a night upon which her appearance would be judged as critically as anything else about her (“Would it have killed you to hit up In-N-Out on the way to the Oscars?”) to attempting to shame another young woman for no good reason (” If Miley Cyrus is the one telling you to relax, maybe slow down a little”) to dismissing her critically lauded talent and reducing Lawrence to her physicality (” You’re lucky you’re a total stone-cold fox with a face like a million dollars and a better rack than a master carpenter”). It’s a disgusting display that Hepburn might be trying to cast off as being nothing more than a joke, but which is really just another all too serious example of the despicable double standard that exists on every level for women who transgress from accepted social norms.

Just to be clear, it’s not just Jennifer Lawrence who doesn’t need some random man’s behavioral policing—it’s all women. None of us need to be condescended to; none of us need to be reduced to our behavior on a single night. None of us need your snarky career advice (which, really? you’re advising an Oscar-winning actress on what to do and not to do? fuck you!); none of us need your concern trolling about our eating habits. Unless a woman is specifically asking you for your advice or your help on an issue, do not assume that you know better for her than she does. It’s insulting, sexist, diminishing, and is not something that any man does to another man. And, Ned Hepburn? If you need a reminder? Just read Sarah Miller’s excellent response on The Hairpin, and remember that not only does Jennifer Lawrence not give two shits about what you have to say, but neither does any other woman. We’re doing just fine on our own.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen

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  1. Well done until the end. Don’t proclaim to not give 2 shits about what he has to say after writing a response to what he had to say. That doesn’t make any sense, and diminishes the credibility and creativity of an otherwise well written piece.

  2. Isn’t it a bit sexist to only direct this towards men? Plenty of women are judge-y about things that shouldn’t matter to them.

  3. It’s not that I totally disagree with your article, but really… it all seems a little overblown, like, maybe you’re overreacting a lot?

    You act like criticizing a drunken celebrity is a huge crime, when in fact the crime is being drunk in public. This is not a double standard, it’s the law. Not to mention the fact that legal or not, it’s certainly distasteful for anyone (male or female) to disgrace themselves by being that intoxicated in front of a national audience. Man or woman, it shows a particularly high level of thoughtlessness to imbibe to that extent when one knows that the whole country will be watching. You say this is something for which men are… celebrated? Please provide citations if I’m ignorant in this regard, because it sounds a little farfetched to my uneducated ear in the matter.

    And surely you’re not in support of drinking to the point of vomiting? Since when is that considered a social norm, and not frowned upon by the general public (general public being reasonable adults rather than stereotypical frat boys)? The problem is not that she’s a WOMAN getting that drunk, it’s that she’s getting THAT drunk. Men are criticized for the same sort of thing all the damn time (by other men no doubt, and perhaps even more often and in harsher terms by women), it’s not as though only women are looked down upon when they drink to excess.

    Margie in the comment above me makes an excellent point as well, that it’s not just men who would judge her in this way for this behavior… they might phrase it differently, but the sentiment is the same.

    So is Ned Hepburn in the right? No, probably not, he may well be a total douchebag and it’s entirely likely that he did indeed approach this from a misogynistic viewpoint (or, perhaps, he’s a writer for a magazine designed to appeal primarily to men, and wrote an article that he thought would be entertaining to that exclusive demographic). That being said, is he within his rights to criticize? Did Jennifer Lawrence put herself in a compromising position in which she opened herself up for judgement? Absolutely.

    P.S. Being drunk to the point of falling, on national television, on one of the biggest and most important nights of your life? Doesn’t sound a lot like “doing just fine on our own” to me.