Mila Kunis slams Hollywood's sexism

WASHINGTON • In a scathing open letter last week, Mila Kunis condemned a Hollywood producer who threatened her when she refused to pose semi-nude - and joined a rapidly growing list of actresses who have vocally rebuked the sexism they regularly face.

She did not name the producer who told her she would "never work in this town again" if she refused to pose partially naked on the cover of a men's magazine to promote a film years ago. His words made her "livid", she wrote, and she said "no".

"And guess what? The world didn't end," she wrote in her essay for A Plus magazine. "The film made a lot of money and I did work in this town again, and again, and again. What this producer may never realise is that he spoke aloud the exact fear every woman feels when confronted with gender bias in the workplace."

And gender bias is undeniably rampant in Hollywood. Recent studies, including research conducted by Geena Davis' advocacy organisation, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, consistently reveal discouraging trends: Actresses get paid less. They are three times as likely to appear in nude scenes as their male counterparts. They get fewer roles, especially as they age, and the parts they do get have fewer speaking lines.

"Throughout my career, there have been moments when I have been insulted, sidelined, paid less, creatively ignored, and otherwise diminished based on my gender," Kunis wrote.

"And always, I tried to give people the benefit of the doubt; maybe they knew more, maybe they had more experience, maybe there was something I was missing. I taught myself that to succeed as a woman in this industry I had to play by the rules of the boy's club. But the older I got and the longer I worked in this industry, the more I realised that it's bull****. And, worse, that I was complicit in allowing it to happen."

Last year, Cate Blanchett told The New York Times that she has learnt to push back when asked to do nude scenes: "When the director says you really need to be topless in this scene, I go, 'Do I?'" she said. "Women need to empower themselves and claim even a character that's written in a cliched way."

Kunis added her voice to the chorus, making it clear that she would no longer give sexist comments - intentional or otherwise - a pass. "I'm done compromising; even more so, I'm done with being compromised," she wrote.

"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. 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. And if my comments fall on deaf ears, I will choose to walk away."

She also acknowledged her privilege in being able to safely speak about her experience; her hope, she said, was that her words might make things better for other women too.

"If this is happening to me, it is happening more aggressively to women everywhere," she wrote.

"I am fortunate that I have reached a place where I can stop compromising and stand my ground, without fearing how I will put food on my table. I am also fortunate that I have the platform to talk about this experience in the hope of bringing one more voice to the conversation, so that women in the workplace feel a little less alone and more able to push back for themselves."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 07, 2016, with the headline 'Mila Kunis slams Hollywood's sexism'. Subscribe