The 74th Annual Academy Awards - Arrivals
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Reese Witherspoon reflects on ex Ryan Phillippe’s ‘you make more than me’ joke

“I just hope in my lifetime, I can help more women make more money. Because Financial well being, just financial stability is freedom.”

Reese Witherspoon revealed that she was “flummoxed” at the 2002 Oscars when her ex-husband Ryan Phillippe made an unscripted ‘joke’ about their finances. Reese and Phillippe co-presented the award for Achievement in Makeup and right before Phillippe opened the envelop to announce the winner, Witherspoon adorably asks, “let me read it, can I read it?” Phillippe looked annoyed that Witherspoon took away his moment before rolling his eyes and handing her the envelope while saying “you make more than I do, go ahead.” While the audience bursted out in laughter, Witherspoon made an audible wide open gasp before opening the envelope and revealing The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring won the category. Watch the moment here at around 1:45.

The Legally Blonde star said she had forgotten it had ever happened and gave some insight 18 years later. “You‘re reminding me of that!” she replied on the podcast. “I forgot that ever happened. But you’re right, he did say that, and no, it wasn’t scripted, and he didn’t tell me he was going to say that before it happened on air. So I was a little bit flummoxed in the moment, too.”

Witherspoon announced her split from Phillippe in 2006 citing “irreconcilable differences” after being married for 7 years. The 44-year-old mama admitted she still doesn‘t know what led him to make the comment and brought up the increased pressure women feel when they achieve individual financial success. “There’s so few women that make a lot of money that sometimes they’re shamed for it, and sometimes they are expected to give more and do more and be more to others in the same position that, say, a male movie star would not be expected to, and that’s just the double standard that exists in our society.” The Oscar winner continued, “But I do think gender norms have changed quite a bit since that moment in like 2000 or something. I do think there are more women making money now, there’s more conversation around the division of domestic labor, and that men are willingly capable, and perfectly happy to do things that normally their father’s wouldn’t do when they were growing up. But I think it all goes back to the point that we need to talk. Women need to talk about money and how they make money and not feel ashamed of it.”

Witherspoon then recalled a moment when her now-21-year-old lookalike daughter Ava came home from second grade crying and said, “mom they say that you‘re one of the highest-paid actresses in Hollywood and I felt so embarrassed. I said come over here. And I said, ‘Don’t ever feel ashamed of a woman making money. There are women all over this world who don’t have an opportunity or an education or the ability to make money. And the more women who make more money, will give more money away, will take care of their societies, will take care of their communities, will do more with that money. So don’t ever feel bad about your mom making money, and don’t ever feel bad if you make money, and don’t be embarrassed or ashamed if it’s more than your partner. And that’s a lesson that I had to learn, cause my mother certainly wasn’t in that situation and neither was my grandmother. So I am still navigating that as a woman.”

The actress and now prolific Hollywood producer, concluded the topic by saying that she has “an interesting relationship with the word ‘power,’ and all I can think of is I just hope in my lifetime, I can help more women make more money. Because Financial well being, just financial stability is freedom.”

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