Kunis: ‘If this is happening to me, it is happening more aggressively to women everywhere’
“‘You’ll never work in this town again.’ A cliché to be sure, but also what a producer threatened when I refused to pose semi-naked on the cover of a men’s magazine to promote our film.” So begins an open letter Actress Mila Kunis wrote about the rampant sexism she faces in Hollywood and how she vows to stand up against it.
In the letter entitled, “You’ll Never Work In This Town Again,” originally published on Medium, she slams a male producer (who hasn’t been named) for telling her “you’ll never work in this town again.” The producer made the psuedo-threat after Kunis refused to pose semi-nude on the cover of a men’s magazine to promote a film.
“What this producer may never realize is that he spoke aloud the exact fear every woman feels when confronted with gender bias in the workplace,” Kunis writes.
She’s exactly correct. The disparities, barriers, and push back women face are well documented and prevent us from getting ahead. We’re behind in leadership roles in almost every corporate area. It’s not for lack of desire, effort, or aspiration either. In a 2016 Women in the Workplace study conducted by LeanIn.org and McKinsey, it was found that women are promoted less than men, even though both try to get promotions at the same rates. Women that negotiate in the workplace were 30 percent more likely than men to receive negative feedback and be called “intimidating,” “too aggressive,” or even “bossy.”
Kunis echoed these sentiments and said, “We don’t want to be kicked out of the sand box for being a ‘bitch.’ So we compromise our integrity for the sake of maintaining status quo and hope that change is coming.”
How many times have we wanted to say “no” to something in the workplace that we’re uncomfortable with, but obliged anyway because we didn’t want to be viewed as “difficult” or “dramatic”? How many times have we bit our tongues and not spoke out against gender discrimination to simply keep our jobs, keep money in our accounts, and food on the table for our families?
Kunis continued to rage against Hollywood’s relentless sexism and slammed the industry for paying her less, insulting her and ignoring her creative ideas. “In the process of pitching this show to a major network, the typical follow-up emails were sent to executives at this network, she explains. “In this email chain, this producer chose to email the following: ‘And Mila is a mega star. One of biggest actors in Hollywood and soon to be Ashton’s wife and baby momma!!!'”
“This is the entirety of his email,” she goes on. “Factual inaccuracies aside, he reduced my value to nothing more than my relationship to a successful man and my ability to bear children. It ignored my (and my team’s) significant creative and logistical contributions.”
Why can’t women get credit for their accomplishments outside of being someone’s wife or someone’s mother? We’re not binary beings with two functions of husband loving and child rearing. We have passions, talents, interests, and smarts that are outside of marriage and care taking. We don’t exist solely to be someone’s wife and someone’s womb. Never mind the exponential success she’s accrued and earned in her life by her own rite, grit, talent, and hard work. It apparently can only be seen through the narrow prism of wife and mother.
Eventually she became so fed up that she started her own production company, Orchard Farm Productions. She said everyone on her team, male and female, is committed to churning out projects that reflect different perspectives and respect equality.
“I’m done compromising; even more so I’m done with being compromised,” Kunis declares. “So from this point forward, when I am confronted with one of these comments, subtle or overt, I will address them head on; I will stop in the moment and do my best to educate.”
Kunis vowed to stand up to these injustices and educate people whenever she can. “I cannot guarantee that my objections will be taken to heart, but at least now I am part of creating an environment where there is the opportunity for growth,” she writes. “And if my comments fall on deaf ears, I will choose to walk away.”
She ends her letter with the most satisfying mic drop:
“I will work in this town again, but I will not work with you.”