Award winning actress Reese Witherspoon is truly a contemporary feminist icon; and not just for her portrayal of the legendary Elle Woods in Legally Blonde. As the founder of a production company that tells stories by women, about women, and as an advocate for charities that support women, Witherspoon’s work is advancing the feminist movement in a multitude of ways.
Witherspoon’s career has taken a surprising, yet refreshing, twist. In 2012, along with Bruna Papandrea, Witherspoon created ‘Pacific Standard,’ a company with aims to tell interesting stories about women. The company produced Oscar nominated films Gone Girl and Wild, and the HBO series, Big Little Lies. In 2016, Witherspoon, along with ‘Otter Media,’ formed ‘Hello Sunshine,’ a company telling stories about women on film and TV. It is inspiring to see an actress work in a more behind the scenes role to really make a difference. Instead of playing roles written for her, Witherspoon has taken control over creating exciting characters for herself, and other actresses.
With so many men working in the film and television industry, as directors, writers and producers, it is important that women like Witherspoon also have influence over the way women are written about. In her Women of the Year Awards speech in 2015, Witherspoon said, “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 asks, ‘What do we do now?’” That one line represents the lack of interesting, multi faceted, realistic female characters in film and TV. The women we know in real life are complex; why aren’t they always represented as such? Witherspoon asked herself this very question, and then asked herself another one.
‘What are we going to do now?’
Instead of simply acknowledging or complaining about the unequal representation in Hollywood, Witherspoon took matters into her own hands. Instead of looking for roles about interesting women, she created them. She did not wait for an opportunity to be handed to her, but instead created her own. Taking this kind of initiative in not only her own career, but to make a difference in a massive industry is remarkable. Standing up to Hollywood’s norms is a bold move, one that certainly paid off for Witherspoon.
However, Witherspoon’s work within the film industry is not her only contribution to the feminism movement.
In 2007, she began serving as the first Global Ambassador for Avon, as well as acting as the company’s spokeswoman and honorary chair of the Avon Foundation. Avon’s charitable organization supports women, and deals with issues such as breast cancer research and the prevention of domestic violence. In a culture of superficial feminism, (hello #girlpower,) the fact that an actress is actually standing up for a cause is incredible. Witherspoon has placed herself in the world of politics, bravely and unashamedly, in order to truly make a difference.
Witherspoon is obviously best known for her acting, especially Legally Blonde; her producing and charity work might go less heard of. While it is admirable that Witherspoon pursues ways to help women outside of her work, it is inspiring that she has found a way to incorporate her beliefs into her work. Witherspoon’s founding of ‘Pacific Standard’ goes to show that if you want something to happen badly enough, all you have to do is make it happen. Not only does Reese Witherspoon deserve to be regarded as an inspiring feminist for her work for and about women, but she deserves credit for the way she works. It is an empowering message for all women out there: do not wait for the right role to come along, write it yourself. The possibilities are endless, but there is only one question left to ask.
‘What are we going to do now?’