As the star of films like Election and Legally Blonde, and as the founder of production company Pacific Standard, Reese Witherspoon has a long history of addressing sexism in Hollywood, both on screen and off. And at Glamour’s Women of the Year event Monday, Witherspoon took to the stage to once again call for more female-led films, citing one of her most iconic characters as inspiration.
“Like Elle Woods, I do not like to be underestimated,” Witherspoon said.
In a wide-ranging speech, Witherspoon discussed everything from the proven box office success of female-led films to the importance of having more women in leadership roles.Witherspoon and her production company were behind Gone Girl and Wild, two successful awards-season films from last year. With Pacific Standard, Witherspoon has made it a goal to adapt more books by female authors and bring more complex, interesting female roles to the big screen.
“Films with women at the center are not a public service project,” she said. “They are a big-time, bottom line-enhancing, money-making commodity.”
In addition to calling out sexist double standards, Witherspoon also highlighted issues of ageism 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,” Witherspoon 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.”
Witherspoon wrapped up her speech by saying that issues of sexism are not limited strictly to Hollywood — and by encouraging those in the audience to believe in their own capabilities and pursue change.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I think we are in a cultural crisis in every field, in every industry,” Witherspoon said. “Women are underrepresented and underpaid in leadership positions. 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?”
Read more about Witherspoon’s speech at PEOPLE.