Like Reese Witherspoon, It’s Not My Fault I’m More Successful Than The Men I’ve Dated

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Reese Witherspoon

While we can all agree that the early 2000s were a much simpler time in terms of ... well, pretty much everything in comparison to 2020, it’s easy to forget that just two decades ago, a woman’s financial success — or any success for that matter — over that of her husband’s was a seriously taboo subject.

Exhibit A: a video of Reese Witherspoon and her ex-husband Ryan Phillippe presenting an Oscar together in 2002 recently resurfaced, and in the video, Phillippe makes a quip about Witherspoon making more money than him. 

Witherspoon was fresh off of her Legally Blonde success at the time, and had been in popular films like The Man in the Moon, Pleasantville, and of course, Cruel Intentions alongside Phillippe.

As Phillippe opens the envelope to reveal the winner of the Oscar for Best Achievement in Makeup, Witherspoon says excitedly, “Let me read it! Can I read it?”

Phillippe replied, “You make more than I do, go ahead.” 

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Phillippe’s not-so-clever one-liner wasn’t planned, and in a recent podcast epsiode, Witherspoon said she was “flummoxed” in that moment, adding that there’s “a double standard that exists in our society.”

“[And] that’s just a double standard that exists in our society. But I do think gender norms have changed quite a bit since that moment in 2000,” she said, adding, “I do think there are more woman making money. I think there’s more conversations around the division of domestic labor and that men are capable and happy and willing to do things that maybe their fathers didn’t do when they were growing up.”

While her statement is true — we as a society have seen more men and women take on different roles in both the workplace and household that once had gender labels slapped on them — that doesn’t mean the problematic notion that men should always be more successful than women has suddenly disappeared into thin air.

I think every woman at one point or another has been subjected to this type of commentary from men. I’m not just talking about financial success here, either. 

I experienced my first bout of sexism when I was young, well before I started dating (we'll get to that in a bit). 

I started playing hockey when I was five years old. I was told by my dad that I couldn’t play because “girls don’t play hockey,” but after a girl showed up to the first practice my twin brother’s team had and I questioned why she could play and I couldn’t, my dad had no choice other than to let me play.

This was the beginning of the wild amounts of sexism I experienced playing a sport that was widely considered “just for men” — and not just from the boys on the teams I played on up until I was 17 years old. 

I played on countless boys hockey teams growing up. Usually, parents and kids were stoked to have me on the team — and for a good reason. I was good. Scratch that — I was great. I was always one of the best players on my team, regardless of the fact that I was a woman dominating a male-dominated sport. 

However, there were always one or two kids, along with their parents , who hated the idea of having a girl on their team. Usually, nothing came of it other than pure hatred towards me, but it didn’t bother me at all. I had so many people rallying around me that one or two kids and their parents, along with their outdated opinions on what women can and can’t do, didn’t have an affect on me.

Cut to 2005. When I was only 15 years old, I got voted off of a team — by the parents first, and then the kids.

After tryouts ended, everyone who was selected, including me, was told to go to a locker room with our parents so we could sign our papers, meet everyone, and get settled in for the upcoming season. There was one problem, though: I was told to wait outside of the locker room with my mom while they had a discussion.

Shortly after, one of the coaches — whose pipsqueak son was on the team — informed me that I wasn’t welcome on the team and that “parents and players felt uncomfortable having a girl on the team.”

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Shocking? Yes. Surprising? Hardly. And I can attribute that one thing: jealousy. 

Flash forward to my senior year of high school, when I was awarded a full athletic scholarship to play Division-1 ice hockey at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. My sophomore year, we won an NCAA championship. 

While many of my former male teammates congratulated me on both of those accomplishments, I was also met with, “So what? It’s women’s hockey. It’s not like it’s actually that hard.”

This type of behavior and language obviously didn’t stop with jealous male hockey players who tried to downplay my accomplishments and success in a sport they so desperately wanted to succeed in, but couldn’t.

I’ve had a few long-term relationships throughout my life, and have been on countless dates with men from dating apps, which I could seriously write a book about. 

And whether it's the mention of my career (I’ve been an editor and writer for nearly a decade now), my accomplishments in hockey, or just being better than men at some things like throwing a spiral, playing pool, or hitting them with a quick-witted comeback, I’ve often been met with doubt, disdain, and of course, jealousy.

I’ve had multiple boyfriends who constantly downplayed my career, all while cracking open a shower beer at 10 a.m. while maybe picking up an odd job once a week while I paid for pretty much everything. (My 20s were a rough time for my self-esteem, too, but you live and learn). 

If I had a dollar for every time I told a dude on a date what I do for a living and was met with, “Oh yeah, so you blog? About celebrities? Doesn’t seem hard, I mean, anyone can do that,” I’d have enough money to retire at 31. 

In fact, I once went on a date with a popular TV host’s step-brother, who told me I’d “never be like his step-sister” when I told him what I did for a living, but that my “personality was okay, just not meant for on-air.” 

If I had a dollar for every time a date told me, “Wow, you’re actually pretty funny,” as if women can’t have a quick-witted sense of humor, I’d be able to buy myself a vacation to Hawaii.

I’ve also been in relationships where every time I beat the guy in anything — pool, darts, basketball, carnival games, you freakin’ name it — I’m “just lucky” and I’m “not actually good at these things.”

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If I had a dollar for every time a boyfriend was shocked to find out that yes, I’m better at most sports than they are, I could’ve paid to have my own robot boyfriend built so I didn’t have to listen to the sexist BS that’s continuously dripping out of their mouth with jealousy. 

While I’ve had my fair share (read: entire adult life’s worth) of sexist and jealous comments from former and potential partners, I am currently in a loving and supportive relationship where my accomplishments are celebrated, not stomped on — and vice versa. 

If my boyfriend lands a huge sale, we both celebrate. When I show him an article I wrote that I’m excited about, we celebrate. When either of us does something we’re proud of, we brag about each other to our friends and families. 

And that’s how it should be.

I worked hard to get to where I am in my career, and did it on my own. I worked my butt off for thirteen years to get a full scholarship to a college with one of the best athletic programs in the country, and sacrificed a normal childhood because of it. There are things I’m exceptionally good at, and like everyone else, things I’m not good at. 

But my accomplishments didn’t appear on a silver platter in front of me, much like many women who have worked hard and made sacrifices in order to accomplish their dreams. 

So men, let me pose a question to you: 

What is so threatening about your wife, girlfriend, partner, date, etc. making more money than you, being successful in their field, or having accomplishments that are dear to them and just downright impressive? 

Shouldn’t you be proud of the person you share your life with? Shouldn’t you be proud of your friends, your family — whoever —  for succeeding in something they’re passionate about? 

While the resurfaced video of Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe may be nearly two decades old and we've made progress when it comes to the “division of labor” Witherspoon mentioned, there’s no denying that there’s still a lot of work to do when it comes to the financial and personal successes of women compared to men.

Remember: it’s not my fault that I’m proud of my accomplishments, what I’m good at, and what I’ve worked hard for. It’s not my fault I’m more successful in certain areas of life. It’s not any woman’s fault. 

And to any man who’s jealous: maybe you just need to accept it.  

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Olivia Jakiel is an editor and writer who covers celebrity and entertainment news. Follow her on Instagram and keep up with her zingers on Twitter