Reese Witherspoon, most recently of “Big Little Lies” and “Wild” fame is a force of nature. In an essay she wrote for the October 2017 issue of Glamour, she makes this pretty clear. Witherspoon doesn’t shy away from the fact the world is can offer some serious bullshit to women and marginalized people sometimes.
Witherspoon got personal, explaining how she started working in Hollywood 15 years ago, a time when she was usually “the only girl with a speaking part,” surrounded by as many as 150 men on set–and how her ambition was often seen as a flaw, not a virtue. In general, as Witherspoon aptly pointed out, women “are marching for the same rights they were marching for 45 years ago.”
Witherspoon went on to cite a Harvard study that found women downplay their careers to get married:
“When I saw the recent Harvard study that found that single female M.B.A. students downplayed their career ambitions in front of male classmates for fear of possibly hurting their marriage prospects, I thought, UGH. Run away from a man who can’t handle your ambition. Run. So many men think ambition is awesome and sexy!”
She also went on to point out how female directors rarely get the same chances that men do, even when men fail:
“When any movie with a group of women starring in it doesn’t make heaps of money, the studio takeaway is that those types of films ‘aren’t working.’ But the truth is not every movie works. It happens. If the director is a woman, she gets personally penalized too. Shouldn’t female filmmakers get as many shots as men do?”
This is why Witherspoon started her own production company five years ago aimed at fostering community and projects by women–which she funded herself for years:
“Today I have something like 23 projects in the works driven by great female characters of different ages and races. There is a film about an astronaut, a film about the entrepreneur who invented Barbie, and a film about the young, brave American girls who were the first women to serve alongside Special Ops in 2010 in Afghanistan.”
Of course, for other women to succeed, this means their ambitions have to be fostered by other women, which Witherspoon completely supports. Without that, none of us can hope for the world to change:
“And when your ambition pays off, I encourage you to give your sisters a little goose out the door by helping to nurture their ambitions… It took me three successful productions—Gone Girl, Wild, and Big Little Lies—to be considered a real player in the producer game.
But it makes me especially happy and proud that I’m now called by other actresses who ask, “Will you find something to produce with me?” Which is really nice. And I will because these women deserve better parts and an opportunity to reach people with their tremendous talent.”
The 41-year-old is also a mom of three (two of whom are teens) and she explains how motherhood makes her want to leave a positive impact on the world–because she wants her kids not only to live in a better world, but be proactive themselves:
“We have to do our part to change the idea that a woman with passion and ambition is out only for herself. So talk to your kids about ambition as a positive trait in men and women.”
Read Reese’s full Glamour essay here.