Ambition is Not a Dirty Word

Female power, 'Little Women,' and the Oscars 2020.

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Yesterday I went to see Greta Gerwig’s film adaptation of Little Women in the cinema. It was fantastic. Complex female characters lit-up the screen. It was touching, funny, frustrating, tense, heart-breaking, and inspirational. Gerwig’s interpretation of one of the most important feminist novels of all-time, was perfect. With its thoughtful cast, clever cinematography, and interesting disruption of chronology, it was a triumphant showcase of female talent. However, I left the cinema feeling deflated. Joe’s struggle to create a successful career and financial independence in a society that expected her only to become a dutiful housewife, resonated too strongly. Just take a look at the line-up for the 92nd Academy Awards...

The Oscars nominees 2020 are overwhelmingly dominated by white men. Once again, there are ZERO women nominated for Best Director, despite the many Oscar-worthy female-directed films that have been released this past year. Many film-nerds, like me, are angry. Since the viral #OscarsSoWhite outcry, the Academy has been actively trying to diversify, and whilst it is taking action to admit more women and people of color, male-led movies are unwaveringly favoured. 

Women are systematically underestimated in the working world. We need to keep empowering female leaders and employees in every industry. We need to keep reminding women that they are worthy of a seat at the table. 

I recently stumbled across a poignant speech given by Hollywood actor, and co-founder of the production company Pacific Standard, Reese Witherspoon, at Glamour’s 2015 Women of the Year Awards. Witherspoon battled against the male-domination of Hollywood, and so created her own production company,  centring on female-led stories. I have picked out some of my favourite moments from her speech: 

“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 she says, 'What do we do now?!' Do you know any woman in any crisis situation who has absolutely no idea what to do? I mean, don't they tell people in crisis, even children, 'If you're in trouble, talk to a woman.' It's ridiculous that a woman wouldn't know what to do...

I think we are in a culture crisis in every field. In every industry, women are underrepresented and underpaid in leadership positions. Under 5 percent of CEOs of fortune 500 companies are women. Only 19 percent of Congress is women...

I urge each one of you to ask yourselves: What do we do now? That's a big question. What is it in life that you think you can't accomplish? Or what is it that people have said that you cannot do? Wouldn't it feel really good to prove them all wrong? Because 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 be a little bit more ambitious? I think the world would change.”

(You can watch the full speech here:

So, we can’t let these Oscar nominations get us down. We have to stay ambitious, inclusive, and open-minded. Watch 'Little Women' if you haven't already. And let’s harness a bit of Joe’s spirit.

“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.” (Louisa May Alcott, Little Women)

By Grace Proctor.

Grace Proctor

Content Editor, LetsReset

Graduate of the University of Exeter First-Class degree in English
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