Elizabeth Banks is a wonder woman.
On Tuesday night, the 43-year-old star was honored at Women in Film Los Angeles’ Crystal + Lucy Awards for her contribution to the film as a director, producer, and actress. And in her inspiring and funny acceptance speech, Banks addressed some of the misogyny she’s experienced on both sides of the camera.
It started early on for Banks, who was urged to get plastic surgery by the first agent she encountered.
“The first agent I ever met in this industry told me to get a boob job,” Banks told the star-studded crowd at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, including fellow honorees Tracee Ellis Ross and Zoey Deutch. “I was so grateful that I didn’t have enough money at the time to follow his advice. I also did not sign with him despite that.”
Of course, Banks still found success without a trip to the plastic surgeon and has used it to help tell women’s stories. She directed Pitch Perfect 2 and plans to direct an upcoming reboot of Charlie’s Angels. But she was still met with opposition along the way – and not just from the male-dominated industry either.
Recalling an experience she had on a panel in New York City with Nora Ephron and Nancy Meyers approximately seven years ago, Banks explains that during the Q&A portion, a woman in the audience asked about how to improve female representation onscreen — noting that she has difficulty getting her two sons interested in seeing a movie about or starring girls.
“I was really angry at this woman and I didn’t have the words or the voice in that moment to tell her how crazy it is that you’re in charge of what they do,” Banks said. “You’re their mother. Buy a f—— ticket to a movie and take them and give them the experience of seeing amazing women on film.
“I grew up seeing amazing movies with amazing men and no one had to drag me kicking and screaming,” she added.
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As a mother of two sons herself (Felix, 5, and Magnus, 4), Banks said that she’s “proud” she gets to raise her two boys to love women — joking that while they’re too young to see Wonder Woman yet, their favorite movie for years was Frozen.
“I have a great partner in my husband Max Handelman,” Banks said. “We’ve been together 25 years… and he expects them to want to go see cool movies with really awesome kick ass female leads. I appreciate that very much in helping me shape them into great little feminists.”
“I get to present an example to them of a working mom who loves what she does,” Banks continued. “In this room, we are creating culture. We are sending messages out to the world. Those messages matter, and presenting strong, independent women who have agency in TV and film is really important — not just in this room, not just in our culture, but in the global culture.”
Co-opting men and boys into that process is “the only way that progress is going to happen,” Banks said. “We can’t do it by ourselves. We need dudes. We need the guys… It’s our responsibility to bring the men along.”
Prior to her award — which was presented to her with a video introduction from Hillary Clinton — Banks told PEOPLE she hopes her success inspires other women to get involved in the industry.
“I hope it encourages other women to step up to the plate of directing, and producing, and writing,” she said. “Anything that they’re thinking about doing, and take more control of the storytelling and of their lives. I was mentored by really incredible women in this business, Diane Lane, and Laura Linney, and Julianne Moore. Women that I love and respect, whose careers I admire, and who all had really interesting advice as they aged in this industry that scared the crap out of me.”