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.