Academy award winner Reese Witherspoon has drawn a huge line in the sand for women with a moving, fist-pumping speech about female ambition at the Glamour Women of the Year Awards at Carnegie Hall in New York.
Reese explained how she was absolutely sick of the lack of female leads in films and so she decided to establish her own film making company to create more movies with a female heroine.
She spoke about her own experiences rising through the ranks of Hollywood and how from very early on in life she was basically told not to be ambitious.
“I remember when I was 18 years old and applying to colleges, I had this male college counsellor, and he said, “Don’t even bother applying to Stanford, sweetie. Your SAT scores aren’t good enough.” But I did it anyway, and I got in.
Witherspoon said she discovered her ambitiousness at age 14. She also learned that for women, being ambitious is often seen as something inherently negative.
She said: “I want everybody to close their eyes and think of a dirty word, like a really dirty word. Now open your eyes. Was any of your words ambition? I didn’t think so. See, I just kind of started wondering lately why female ambition is a trait that people are so afraid of. Why do people have prejudiced opinions about women who accomplish things? Why is that perceived as a negative?”
“I believe ambition is not a dirty word,” said Witherspoon. “It’s believing in yourself and your abilities.”
The 39-year-old actress urged women and men to see women’s ambitions — and stories — as things worth recognizing, highlighting and elevating.
Throughout her career, Witherspoon has played fabulously interesting, complicated characters. Her roles in movies like “Election,” “Walk the Line”, “Cruel Intentions” and “Legally Blonde,” made her a bonafide star. But she didn’t just want to act, slotting herself into roles Hollywood deemed “acceptable” for ladies — wife, girlfriend, mother, grandmother — or trying desperately to find a studio developing the kind of characters she liked to play. After asking studios what projects they were developing with female leads and being “met with nothing, blank stares, excessive blinking, uncomfortable shifting,” Witherspoon grew increasingly frustrated.
“I dread reading scripts that have no women involved in their creation because inevitably I get to that part where the girl turns to the guy, and she says, ‘What do we do now?!,'” the actress said.
“Do you know any woman in any crisis situation who has absolutely no idea what to do?”
She wanted to produce films that really told women’s stories in an authentic way. So in 2012 she founded her production company, Pacific Standard, which operates under the idea that “films with women at the centre are not a side project.”
The company has produced such hits as “Wild” and “Gone Girl,” both of which were not only commercially successful, but garnered Academy Award nominations for its female stars in acting categories.
She ended her speech with a call to arms, urging women everywhere to own their ambitions and abilities.
“What is it in life that you think you can’t accomplish? Or what is it that people have said that you cannot do? Wouldn’t it feel really good to prove them all wrong? Imagine this: What would happen if we were all brave enough to be a little bit more ambitious? I think the world would change.”
Reese Witherspoon made one thing very clear: female ambition is not a trait to fear. Instead, we should wholeheartedly embrace it.
We agree Reese! Fantastic speech! Power to you.