Reese Witherspoon wants women to be empowered


I will admit to leaving a panicked voicemail for my sister when the green rubber bracelet I’d been given at the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince midnight release party finally snapped — because now what was I going to do for jewelry? I needed an accessory that stood for something, like a time when the greatest wizard of our age, Albus Dumbledore, was still alive. For two years my physical equilibrium has been off because I can’t find anything to balance out the plastic watch on my left wrist. But it seems as if Reese Witherspoon may have at last solved my problem. This week she flew to Tokyo to bring a message of women’s empowerment, and to promote Avon’s aptly named Women’s Empowerment Bracelet.

Witherspoon, who is a goodwill ambassador to the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), donned a kimono and participated in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, where she was the guest of honor. At the ceremony, she met with breast cancer survivors and spoke for a few moments, saying that the women there were an inspiration to her, but that she was saddened by the fact that only 12% of women are able receive breast cancer screenings due to lack of equipment in Japan. In an effort to increase that statistic, Avon will soon begin marketing their Women’s Empowerment Bracelet in Asia, promising all proceeds ($2.25 out of every $3.00 bracelet sold) to UNIFEM, with a matching contribution for the first $500,000 raised. That may seem like a drop in the bucket for a company that reported sales of $9.9 billion in 2007, but Avon has raised over $525 million for breast cancer research, more money any other corporation in the world.

Witherspoon also said that UNIFEM would continue to fight to make strides against impoverishment and and abuse for women worldwide.

The press has, as usual, been intoxicated with Reese Witherspoon on her trip to Tokyo. (And have you seen her smile? Who wouldn’t be?) The irony, I suppose, is that every story I’ve read — from the Associated Press to gossip blogs — mentions Witherspoon in the context of her 2001 role in Legally Blonde instead of alluding to June Carter Cash, the role that won her an Oscar, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA and a SAG award. (“Elle Woods-approved pink kimono…” “Charitably Blonde…”)

UNIFEM’s goal is gender equality, placing the advancement of women’s rights at the center of all its efforts. Maybe that’s easier to hear coming from Elle Woods — the ditzy, blonde lawyer who taught her manicurist the bend-and-snap — than it is from June Carter, the woman for whom even Johnny Cash walked the line. Either way, I’m getting one of those Women’s Empowerment Bracelets. It’s a nice blue, and once I put it on maybe I’ll stop tilting left toward my watch arm.

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