Reese Witherspoon: ‘Run away from a man who can’t handle your ambition. Run.’

Prince Charles and Prince William attend a preview Tattoo performance

Reese Witherspoon covers the October issue of Glamour Magazine. The cover is… not the best. I would not have put Reese in a swimsuit and a weird faux-fur coat, but who am I? Certainly not a professional stylist. Reese is currently promoting Home Again, her romantic comedy where her character sort of “falls” for a younger guy. Reese is having a great year in general, working back-to-back as an actress and as a producer, and she’s already wrapped on Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time as well. To promote all of that, Glamour let Reese write an essay on ambition and being a woman who works. I came into this thinking that Reese would come across like a less complicit Ivanka Trump, but after reading the piece… Reese is fine. These are important things for young women to hear, and Reese is trying to make the conversation about ambition intersectional as well. You can read the full essay here. Some highlights:

Ambition at an early age: “I have been ambitious all my life. In fact, I vividly remember telling my third-grade teacher that I wanted to be the first female president of the United States. Ambition is simply a drive inside of you—it’s having a curiosity or a new idea and the desire to pursue it. I asked the audience a question that night in Carnegie Hall: What if all women were encouraged to be a bit more ambitious?

Defeatism: “To be honest, in the past two years, there have also been days when I’ve seen what’s playing out in the news for women and felt completely hopeless. I get defeated when I see news that major corporations are paying top male executives significantly more than top female executives, or that women are marching for the same rights they were marching for 45 years ago. It definitely feels backward for women to be fighting for fundamental health care. I mean…really? If our representatives value women’s health in this country as much as they claim they do, how can they even contemplate denying women access to cervical or breast cancer screenings? You can’t help our kids, our country, or our future if you don’t take care of women. That feels pretty simple to me.

Intersectionality, the conversation: “Another thing I think about a lot is how it feels to be a minority woman in America, so rarely seeing yourself onscreen, and it’s unconscionable. When I asked Mindy Kaling, “Don’t you ever get exhausted by always having to create your own roles?” she said, “Reese, I’ve never had anything that I didn’t create for myself.” I thought, Wow, I feel like a jerk for asking that; I used to have parts that just showed up for me. I can’t imagine how hard it is to write your own parts and simultaneously have to change people’s perceptions of what a woman of color is in today’s society.

Run away from certain men: “When I saw the recent Harvard study that found that single female M.B.A. students downplayed their career ambitions in front of male classmates for fear of possibly hurting their marriage prospects, I thought, UGH. Run away from a man who can’t handle your ambition. Run. So many men think ambition is awesome and sexy!”

What she would change about herself: “One of my girlfriends asked me the other day, “Is there anything that you wish you could change about yourself?” I thought about it, and I said, “Sometimes I wish I could turn off my ambition. Every Monday I have a new idea of what I want to accomplish, or how I want to effect change, and I get run down.” When I have those days when I’m exhausted, I go to bed early, and I find that my mission to change things is what gets me up again the next morning.

[From Glamour]

It’s not perfect, but it was never going to be perfect. This conversation about women, ambition, our rights, systemic sexism, institutionalized racism… there are a million different ways to talk about it and educate people and try to do something to fight. I think Reese is doing what she can, and I like that she felt like a jerk for only just realizing this year that yeah, it’s really tough for women of color in her industry. As for “running away” from men who are scared of ambitious women… easier said than done! Those men creep up on you and they don’t all come with labels.

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Photos courtesy of Glamour, Getty.

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26 Responses to “Reese Witherspoon: ‘Run away from a man who can’t handle your ambition. Run.’”

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  1. Jillian says:

    “Easier said than done” absolutely.
    Especially when it starts at a younger age le when children are involved

    • Faye says:

      This is me right now. I have always been really ambitious, and even when your husband isn’t jealous of your ambition, but has no ambition of his own, it’s really tough. It’s constant comparisons and excuses. I’m just stuck until my kids get older.

  2. Sarah says:

    Wasn”t that part of the reason that things didn’t work out with Ryan Phillippe? He was jealous or couldn’t handle the success she was having. I’ve had the opposite happen to me, I was working retail in my mid-20′s and had a guy dump me because he thought he was better than dating a retail worker. I took a long time to finish school because I just wasn’t sure what kind of career I wanted, I finally decided on a career and was very successful in school graduating summa cum laude. At that point the guy came back around and was trying really hard to date me again. I know this story was sidetracking, but I don’t think its fair to assume one doesn’t have ambition because they aren’t necessarily successful.

    • LizLemonGotMarried says:

      You had a different plan for your life, and that’s great-you knew that you needed to have patience with yourself and achieved your goals. However, many people may also have a pace for when they want to accomplish certain goals (job, financial stability, serious relationships, marriage, kids) and that pace can consciously or unconsciously influence our decisions-even when I was in my early twenties, I wanted to get established, get married, and have kids, and I purposely dated men who were on that same track and timeline. I turned down men who were working jobs that didn’t align. That doesn’t mean they weren’t great guys with a lot to offer, but I had some specific things I wanted to accomplish in life in a specific way. I also met the love of my life and we have very similar values and thinking.
      Coming back later was a punk ass move though.

      • perplexed says:

        I think a lot of people have the same goals for achieving things on a certain timeline. But unforeseen things can sometimes happen that mess up the trajectory. Life isn’t necessarily a smooth path for everyone. So, on a surface level, I do think it’s hard to know which people are ambitious and who aren’t (well, unless they outright tell you they have no hopes for achieving anything). But I think someone can be very ambitious and sometimes something happens to throw a wrench in their plan (i.e career obstacles, money issues, death in the family, caregiving roles, etc.)

    • Annika says:

      Sarah, I can relate to your comment somewhat; my in-laws think of me as less ambitious than they’d like. Because I hadn’t gotten my master’s until I was 31. They’re more concerned about the amount of degrees & titles behind your name but without understanding the planning & effort that goes into it.
      I worked at my degrees in chunks of time because that’s what worked best for me. I had to pay my own way thru college & was terrified of lifelong debt, so I decided to get my associate’s (LPN) & working for a few years as I earned my bachelor’s(RN) & then took a bit of time off from school to work, get married, move 3 times, & buy a house.
      My goal was to finish my master’s before starting a family. Finished it at 31, had my 1st child at 32.
      Something that they don’t comprehend that I am very ambitious about is saving & investing money. I had paid off all of my student debt before having my 2nd child. I’ve set & met many savings goals; I was able to buy my current car with cash & will be able to when I need to purchase another one. The only current debt that I have is my mortgage, which will be paid off when I’m 50. I’m 37 right now.
      My hubby has always supported & applauded all of my decisions & goals, so we are able to ignore the snide comments over the years.
      My point in this rambling comment is that there are different areas in which a person can be ambitions.
      And that former boyfriend was a d*ck.

      • Sarah says:

        I got my BSN, it took me a long time to pursue nursing, but I am so glad that I did! Once I got into nursing school, I put all of my energy into it. The person that I was with while I was in nursing school sometimes couldn’t understand why I couldn’t go out and had to stay in and study. Congratulations on getting your MSN, I know first hand how difficult nursing school is, so thats a huge accomplishment!

  3. BritAfrica says:

    “When I saw the recent Harvard study that found that single female M.B.A. students downplayed their career ambitions in front of male classmates for fear of possibly hurting their marriage prospects, I thought, UGH.”

    Oh Lord. Please tell me it isn’t so! It’s 2017 and educated women still feel the need to do this??

    Well I was having a good day but now I’M defeated!

  4. littlemissnaughty says:

    I’m not married and the older I get, the less I want to even move in with a guy. Why? Because they DO creep up on you. The guys I grew up with who are through one friend or another still in my circle of acquaintances did this. Except for my bff’s husband. The rest of them wanted someone highly educated to show off. Who then stays home with the kids of course. I know there are exceptions but how many couples sit down and have a conversation about this without one or both just assuming that the man’s career is of course going to be put first? Maybe I just surround myself with the wrong people.

    As for the rest of the interview, it’s fine. She’s not perfect and I can’t unhear that tape of her being a d*ck to the police officer. But this is one of the better interviews.

    • Amanduh says:

      I knew someone was going to bring up what she said eons ago…
      Build a bridge and get over it!

      • QueenB says:

        It showed a very telling side of her character. Its important to call people like her out. She is a wealthy white woman berating a cop. Thats a No No.
        We are doing a slightly better job at calling people out for their sexism and racism, classism also needs to be called out.

    • perplexed says:

      It’s probably easier for both partners to handle each other’s ambition when they’re in different careers. Competition probably arises when they’re both in the same field.

      Reese’s second marriage is probably on better footing since the guy she married is a successful producer. He’s good at what he does (I assume); she’s good at what she does. It all works out. And she can probably go to him for advice for how to produce her own films. Since he’s behind-the-scenes and likes it, he probably doesn’t mind seeing her face on the cover of a magazine.

      In acting, someone will always be more famous/successful than the other one. That particular profession has stark odds for success.

      • QueenB says:

        Its hard to compare professions in Hollywood. Actors and singers rarely have happy relationships. I dont really think it matters with whom they end up.

    • LizLemonGotMarried says:

      Anecdotal evidence only: when my career started taking off, my husband and I were earning about the same. We sat down, discussed the pros and cons of moving, and ultimately decided to prioritize my career. It’s been a fantastic move for us, but it came with a cost-he has had to move a couple of times and change jobs, and he has made the choice to work in a field that pays well but significantly less than mine but had tons of flexibility.
      But-I was upfront about my goals from the start, and I never deliberately hid my ambition. He took me as I was, and I think that made a difference.

    • lucy2 says:

      I think her husband is an agent, not a producer.
      I agree they can creep up on you, but there’s also a lot of guys who right away are insecure about a woman who has a strong career and can support herself.

  5. InVain says:

    It’s good advice. Both partners can be ambitious and successful. I realize it’s much harder when you’re not famous and don’t have access to all the money and resources that fame affords you. I’m saying that parenthood sometimes puts the brakes on ambition and dreams (esp. for women). But thankfully I have a supportive partner, who knows I’m always striving for more or better and so is he. We both want that for each other, together.

  6. Gia says:

    Oh yeah and run into the arms of a famous Hollywood agent that pushes you for every role. Many female actresses see their careers take off when they marry/date/screw well known directors, film agents, producers. She’s had it easy.

    • lucy2 says:

      Reese has worked steadily since she was a teenager, and won an Oscar and did some of her biggest films long before she started dating her husband.
      That sounds like you’re attributing her success to him, which simply isn’t true.

    • Who ARE these people? says:

      She was extremely successful well before she met him.

    • jenna says:

      There is nothing I despise more than some people’s insistence on saying a woman is only successful because of her husband, especially when it’s so blatantly untrue as in the case here. That and “oh, she did the casting couch”, or “Weinstein helped her”. It’s so demeaning and misogynist and never gets tossed at successful males.

  7. Ytbtet says:

    I think you also have to caution against guys who are only with you because of career or money. In my Pakistani culture guys now insist on marrying a doctor for financial reasons and it makes me sick

  8. cd3 says:

    To me it sounds a bit like she’s saying all the right things here. She has her own production company, but looking at her work, I call BS. She hasn’t gone out of her way to create roles for women of color – Legally Blonde 2, Penelope, Gone Girl, Big Little Lies… the only one that features a woman of color in a key role was Big Little Lies. All talk, this one.

    • jenna says:

      Or you could approach it in the way that she’s newly conscious of race in Hollywood, claims she wants to help any way she can, and has been actively working to get her fellow actresses (and actresses over 40 I should add) incredible parts in film and television for several years now.

      Instead of, you know, just trashing her for not being a gazillion percent woke.

  9. raincoaster says:

    It’s sad to hear about those MBA women pretending to be less than they are to get a man. The saddest thing is: it works.

    A friend of mine who’s a financial professional (I’m not sure if she has an MBA but it wouldn’t surprise me) tested this on dating sites. She created several profiles which were identical, except that each one had a different income listed. She got the fewest responses on the profile which reported her real income, six figures, and the most responses on the profile listing her income at Under $10,000. Depressing. Money is power.

    And yes, I know that men exist who are cool with powerful women. It’s sad for men as well as for women that we are all conditioned not to be.

  10. Shirurusu says:

    Ambition and relationships are tough and create problems all kinds of ways. I broke up with my ex because even though he was getting a PhD at the time, his ambition after he finished school was to go back to his home town and smoke a lot of weed with his friends and do nothing. I wanted to have a family and have always been pretty ambitious myself, so the idea of having him at home doing basically nothing was very unappealing to me.

    I have a friend in the opposite situation, she’s highly successful in her career but wants to have a family, and her boyfriend keeps pushing her to further her career instead, even though she wants to quit because it’s so stressful.

    I’ve also dated someone who was very happy while I was in a low income job but started to feel inferior as soon as I got a promotion. He liked paying for everything and I hated it and was very happy when I had more money to be able to even the scales. He really wasn’t lol!

  11. Leo says:

    I call BS about her finally realizing her White Privilege when it comes to getting parts. Hollywood has always been like that since it began. If she truly cared, why hasn’t she made more films that featured POC? There’s an ongoing rumor that Reese is a racist, which I hope isn’t true, but the films she’s produced so far have only catered to white women.