Reese Witherspoon won’t keep quiet about the double-standards she’s encountered in Hollywood.
The actress, 39, addressed the work that still needs to be done in the industry while accepting her award at Glamour‘s annual Women of the Year fête Monday in New York, where she was honored for her production company Pacific Standard and fashion line Draper James.
In an impassioned speech, Witherspoon called out everything from ageism to sexism in the entertainment industry.
“I hope, Amy Schumer – and all the other incredible nominees – that you’ll give me the rights to your biopic first,” the multi-hyphenate said. “Although, Amy, I’m five years older than you, so I’ll probably have to play your grandmother in the movie, by Hollywood standards, and you’ll probably have to play your own mother.”
Another topic close to Witherspoon’s heart: making movies with more female leads, a goal she’s tackling with Pacific Standard.
She started the company after receiving some advice from her own mom: “My mother, a very strong Southern woman, said to me, ‘If you want something done, Honey, do it yourself,'” Witherspoon said.
Not that it’s been easy. When some tried to discourage the Oscar winner from creating more female-focused films, she had a Legally Blonde moment.
“Like Elle Woods, I do not like to be underestimated,” she added.
“Films with women at the center are not a public service project. They are a big-time, bottom line-enhancing, money-making commodity,” she said, citing two of her company’s box office smashes: Gone Girl and Wild.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I think we are in a cultural crisis in every field, in every industry. Women are underrepresented and underpaid in leadership positions,” Witherspoon added toward the end of her speech. “No wonder we don’t have the healthcare we deserve or paid family leave or public access to early childhood education. And that really worries me. How can we expect legislation with our rights and needs being preserved if we don’t have equal representation?”
Then, ending her remarks, she challenged the predominantly female-filled audience: “I believe ambition is not a dirty word. It’s just believing in yourself and your abilities. Imagine this: What would happen if we were all brave enough to believe in our own ability? To be a little bit more ambitious? I think the world would change.”