Everyone knows that it’s difficult to be a woman in the public eye, and no one knows it better than the women of Hollywood. Here are some of their best essays on equal pay, objectification and intersectional feminism.

While the film industry brings fame and privilege, it also puts women on the receiving end of harassment and objectification. In response, some female stars have used their fame to make their voices heard, writing about the issues that affect women’s lives both within Hollywood and outside of it.

essays witherspoon

Reese Witherspoon on ambition

Reese Witherspoon’s recent essay is an excellent example of how someone can lift up other women and inspire them to tell their own stories. Touching on talent, ambition, and supportive friendships, her essay encourages women to find a way to change the world.

“All we can do to create change is work hard. That’s my advice: Just do what you do well. If you’re a producer, you’ve got to produce. If you’re a writer, you’ve got to write. If you’re in corporate America, keep working hard to bust through the glass ceiling. If you want our voices to be represented in government—and I think we’re all getting behind that idea now—encourage women to run and help them with their campaigns. If you are one of those people who has that little voice in the back of her mind saying, ‘Maybe I could do [fill in the blank],’ don’t tell it to be quiet. Give it a little room to grow, and try to find an environment it can grow in.”

She also makes an important point about her own privilege as a white woman in Hollywood — pointing out that, as difficult as her own career has been, women of color in the same industry have to go through much more.

“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 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.”

essays jennifer lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence on equal pay

Although Jennifer Lawrence was quick to acknowledge that her problems “aren’t exactly relatable,” her powerful essay about equal pay is relevant to women everywhere.

“I’m over trying to find the ‘adorable’ way to state my opinion and still be likable! Fuck that. I don’t think I’ve ever worked for a man in charge who spent time contemplating what angle he should use to have his voice heard. It’s just heard. Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale, and Bradley Cooper all fought and succeeded in negotiating powerful deals for themselves. If anything, I’m sure they were commended for being fierce and tactical, while I was busy worrying about coming across as a brat and not getting my fair share.”

essays amandla stenberg

Amandla Stenberg on millennials and cultural appropriation

Amandla Stenberg is a goldmine of well-written essays, but she’s most well-known for her work discussing the appropriation of black culture and the role of millennials in activism.

“Our generation is more than just a hashtag. We are the next generation of hunger leaders and advocates, taking a stand and not allowing our peers and families to go hungry. We are no different from any committed movement of passionate people who see a brighter future for generations to come. We just happen to talk about it in 140 characters or less.”

The shorter piece on her Instagram explains the disrespect and hypocrisy black women endure in society.

“While white women are praised for altering their bodies, plumping their lips and tanning their skin, black women are shamed although the same features exist on them naturally(…) As culture shifts and racial tensions are tested through the vehicle of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, it is important to question: Do female black lives matter too?”

essays ashley judd

Ashley Judd on objectification

In response to a stream of vicious tabloid rumors, Ashley Judd penned an excellent piece on the objectification of women in the media and women’s own role in bringing women down because of internalized misogyny.

“Patriarchy is not men. Patriarchy is a system in which both women and men participate. It privileges, inter alia, the interests of boys and men over the bodily integrity, autonomy, and dignity of girls and women. It is subtle, insidious, and never more dangerous than when women passionately deny that they themselves are engaging in it. This abnormal obsession with women’s faces and bodies has become so normal that we (I include myself at times—I absolutely fall for it still) have internalized patriarchy almost seamlessly. We are unable at times to identify ourselves as our own denigrating abusers, or as abusing other girls and women.”

essays jennifer aniston

Jennifer Aniston on paparazzi

Jennifer Aniston has been on the receiving end of vicious gossip for years. She opened up about the pain and anger she feels towards the way she and other women are being objectified in the media.

“We use celebrity ‘news’ to perpetuate this dehumanizing view of females, focused solely on one’s physical appearance, which tabloids turn into a sporting event of speculation. Is she pregnant? Is she eating too much? Has she let herself go? Is her marriage on the rocks because the camera detects some physical ‘imperfection’?”

essays laverne cox

Laverne Cox on beauty standards

As an activist for transgender rights, Laverne Cox has written a lot of inspiring material, but this essay about the way certain beauty standards are represented more than others, especially when it comes to transgender representation, is certainly one of her most powerful pieces.

“What I think they meant is that in certain lighting, at certain angles I am able to embody certain cisnormative beauty standards. Now, there are many trans folks because of genetics and/or lack of material access who will never be able to embody these standards. More importantly many trans folks don’t want to embody them and we shouldn’t have to be seen as ourselves and respected as ourselves. It is important to note that these standards are also informed by race, class and ability among other intersections. I have always been aware that I can never represent all trans people. No one or two or three trans people can. This is why we need diverse media representations of trans folks to multiply trans narratives in the media and depict our beautiful diversities.”

essays mila kunis

Mila Kunis on gender bias

Mila Kunis explores her own experiences with sexism in the film industry and the way she has approached gender bias, both and as a young star and as an experienced producer.

“It’s what we are conditioned to believe — that if we speak up, our livelihoods will be threatened; that standing our ground will lead to our demise. We don’t want to be kicked out of the sandbox for being a ‘bitch.’ So we compromise our integrity for the sake of maintaining the status quo and hope that change is coming.”

She ends on a powerful note, acknowledging her own role in bringing attention to these issues: “If this is happening to me, it is happening more aggressively to women everywhere.”

Which is your favorite Hollywood essay and why?

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