Reese Witherspoon Takes On Hollywood Sexism

Reese Witherspoon

Reese Witherspoon is mad, 'really mad', but exactly how is Hollywood’s sweetheart tackling sexism on the big screen? She’s taken matters into her own hands and created her own production company.

Speaking about the ‘complete lack of interesting female leads in film' at a recent Hollywood Reporter round table, Reese explained: ‘First I got mad, really mad. And then I was like, 'It's nobody's fault; if you're not proactive about things'…’

In 2012, production company Pacific Standard was born with a clear feminist goal: stop complaining and start making more interesting film roles for women.

‘I'd had a company before, but it was basically about trying to develop things that I would eventually be in. So I just switched the idea: If I can develop anything for any other women, I don't care who it is; I just want my daughter to grow up seeing complex, interesting, nuanced women in film. So I started it with my own money…’

David Fincher’s Gone Girl and Jean-Marc Vallee’s Wild soon followed. What both films have in common is a similar central theme: strong women who push against stereotype; and a shared production credit: Pacific Standard.

It’s not just Reese Witherspoon who’s had enough – Hollywood does seem to be biting back. Lena Dunham recently hit out that ‘there’s just no place for me in the studio system’ and Eva Longoria fired earlier this month: ‘People tend to put women in boxes: She’s sexy, she’s ambitious, she’s smart, she’s a mom…but women are complex, and we are always underestimated. Women are all of those things at the same time.’

Eva is right, women are being underestimated in Hollywood and you don’t need these stars to tell you how. Just take a look at the statistics. A study researched at San Diego State University and published via Life magazine makes for sober reading: for starters just 30% of all speaking roles and 15% of protagonists belong to women and only 13% of the top 100 films featured an equal number of male and female characters.

Hollywood veteran Geena Davis has even founded her own Institute on Gender in Media (established in 2007) and she’s on a quest to dramatically increase the percentages of female characters in the media, including this one: Only 17% of crowd scenes in the films we watch contain women

Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon showed Hollywood how it's done in 1991's Thelma and Louise.

Even cinemetrics data published in the New York Times this year found that men get double the screen time of women. Some will say Hollywood’s sexism is largely due to a lack of women behind-the-scenes, with women accounting for just 16% of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors in 2013. which is why Reese Witherspoon’s and Geena Davis’ input is so exciting heading into 2015.

‘Surely in the 21st century kids should be seeing boys and girls share the sandbox equally?’ Geena Davis asked at the beginning of 2014. Let’s hope Reese & co are helping to push things forward for women in the Hollywood playground as we head into 2015…

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