Reese Witherspoon may have made a name for herself by portraying other women onscreen, but this superstar isn’t playing by other people’s rules in her own life — and she’s setting out to make a difference for women in the entertainment industry.
Witherspoon recently penned an essay for Glamour about the importance of ambitious women, and her words are fresh inspiration for anyone who needs a reminder of their own self-worth.
In her essay, Reese talks about how there have been many positive advancements made by women in the entertainment industry — however, she acknowledges that there’s still a ways to go, particularly when you take a look at the many injustices women still deal with in our country.
“To be honest, in the past two years, there have also been days when I’ve seen what’s playing out in the news for women and felt completely hopeless,” she writes. “I get defeated when I see news that major corporations are paying top male executives significantly more than top female executives, or that women are marching for the same rights they were marching for 45 years ago … You can’t help our kids, our country, or our future if you don’t take care of women. That feels pretty simple to me.”
She describes what it was like early on in her career, when she was often the token woman on set. “I remember, 15 years ago, being a young actress and starting to audition for movies in L.A. There were always a lot of young women waiting in the green room for their shot at the one part there was for a girl in any given movie. Because that’s all there was—one part. As I got some of those parts, I would arrive on set to realize I was the only girl with a speaking part.”
“There were also no women in the crew: Maybe a girl or two in the wardrobe department, but no one in any other department,” she writes. “I was literally surrounded by 150 men. I remember thinking it was odd that women made up half the population but such small percentages of roles in Hollywood, on and off the screen.”
Even though Reese now has her own production company and can contribute to change in the industry by making her own work, she says that her success as an actress hasn’t made the producer path any easier — particularly when she wants to create more female-driven stories.
“Some people are realizing that projects with female leads are big-time moneymaking commodities, but I’ve also had studio heads say to me, ‘We don’t want to make biopics about women,’ or more simply, ‘We’re not interested in female-driven material.'”
She adds, “My first go-round as a producer with Gone Girl? Every studio passed but one. When the book hit number one on the best-seller lists, it was a different story.”
Reese is particularly stunned by how difficult it is for women of color to make their mark in the entertainment industry or be given the opportunity to tell their own stories — and how it’s important for white female allies to acknowledge their own privilege and always make an effort to listen.
“Another thing I think about a lot is how it feels to be a minority woman in America, so rarely seeing yourself onscreen, and it’s unconscionable,” she writes. “When I asked Mindy Kaling, ‘Don’t you ever get exhausted by always having to create your own roles?’ she said, ‘Reese, I’ve never had anything that I did’’t create for myself.’ I thought, Wow, I feel like a jerk for asking that; I used to have parts that just showed up for me. I can’t imagine how hard it is to write your own parts and simultaneously have to change people’s perceptions of what a woman of color is in today’s society.”
Ultimately? Reese says that the only real solution to many of these problems is to nurture your ambition. To do what it is that you’re best at, to contribute to the world, and to be persistent in your efforts. Sooner or later, someone is bound to take notice. And when people take notice, that’s how change is instigated.
“You can complain about these things. You can get stuck in the emotion of it—and sometimes I do, and I get really angry. I’ll get pissed off and stomp around the house. The anger comes from such a deep, real place for me. But my mother always said to me, ‘If you want something done, do it yourself.'”
And since a summarization doesn’t do it justice, you can read the entirety of Reese’s powerful essay here.