Why Reese Witherspoon Is The Hero Hollywood Needs Right Now

Back in 2015, Reese Witherspoon gave an impassioned speech on the lacking representation of women in media at Glamour’s Women of the Year Summit:

So Reese says something really powerful here. It’s not new. It’s not original, but it is extremely powerful.

“This is my life. . .I was time to turn to myself and say, ‘What are we going to do now?’ And the answer is really clear. . .’If you want something done, honey, do it yourself.'”

I’m well aware that this is not some novel concept, especially when it comes to the plight of women throughout time. Strong women throughout history have stood firm and decided they were not gong to wait for the slow and steady pace of progress to catch up in order to get what they deserve. Women of all different ages and backgrounds have been led by this simple concept.

No, this statement is not new, but it matters now as much as ever. The unfortunate truth is that as far as we have come in this contemporary age, there is still so much work to do. The really powerful thing here is that this statement is no less true now than it was back in 2015, or even a century or a millennium ago. Witherspoon’s words are so honestly poignant and powerful, and it makes you wonder: why aren’t we doing better by now?

Today’s cultural moment is weighed down by a plethora of women’s issues: sexual assault and harassment, workplace discrimination, adequate access to healthcare, and the list goes on. The test of time merely proves that we’ve been waging a seemingly never ending war, and in the face of persisting opposition, “Do it yourself” becomes more than an inspirational sentiment but an essential mantra that we have to remind ourselves each day and continue passing on across generations.

Bringing this back to Witherspoon, I honestly had no idea just how much she was doing these past couple years. After watching this video, I spent some time researching Pacific Standard Films. The company was established in 2012 by both Witherspoon and producer Bruna Papandrea, and it can boast a number of highly successful and entertaining films and television series:

Gone Girl

Wild

Hot Pursuit

Big Little Lies

Up until now, I was unaware that these titles were connected, but they each reflect the power of strong female narratives. Witherspoon and Papandrea categorically rejected the common narrative perpetuated in Hollywood of there being no place for female driven material and disproved the antiquated myth. Although Papandrea has moved on from the venture, the duo continues to work together on female led projects.

This is a prime example of a celebrity using their platform and resources to do something about the problems we see and experience, and I find Witherspoon’s commitment deeply inspiring.

At the end of the day, however, you don’t need to invest millions of dollars in a production company to do it yourself. Witherspoon’s climb to power and influence in Hollywood at the helm of a women driven venture is inspiring not because of its scale but because of its conviction and because it proved that female stories are viable and demand to be told.

That simple truth would have been impossible to prove had she continued to talk and wonder rather than simply do it.

Witherspoon thus arrives at a powerful point in her speech:

“Films with women at the center are not a public service project.”

Witherspoon has proven this tenfold in the realm of Hollywood, an industry—in which it is no mystery—that is in dire need of an overhaul in terms of representation and diversity.

But we can modify this to apply to all industries: ANYTHING with women at the center is not a public service project. Witherspoon has proven once again, like many determined women before her, that we do not have to wait for the system to change. We can change it ourselves. Women have a great deal to offer the world, and we do not have to wait for permission to offer our services.

Whether it be big or small, the key is just to do something, and then keep doing day after day after day. That is the legacy of the women who empowered us to arrive at the place of privilege we are at today, and the conviction we owe to the women who will come after us.

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