Mila Kunis is taking a stand against sexism.
Too often, the actress has been told, "'You'll never work in this town again.'" But, in an op-ed for Ashton Kutcher's A Plus on Wednesday, Kunis asserted her own power in Hollywood. "I will work in this town again," she told an unidentified film producer, "but I will not work with you."
It's an issue that's been bugging the actress for some time.
Kunis refused to pose semi-naked on the cover of a men's magazine to promote one of her films, prompting the producer to threaten her. "I was no longer willing to subject myself to a naïve compromise that I had previously been willing to. 'I will never work in this town again?'" the actress wrote. "I was livid, I felt objectified, and for the first time in my career I said 'no.'"
Kunis kept her clothes on, and the unnamed movie still "made a lot of money."
More importantly, she wrote, "I did work in this town again, and again, and again."
Gender bias in the workplace is a common issue for many women, Kunis noted—and it's not limited to women in Hollywood, either. "It's what we are conditioned to believe—that if we speak up, our livelihoods will be threatened; that standing our ground will lead to our demise. We don't want to be kicked out of the sandbox for being a 'bitch," she said. "So we compromise our integrity for the sake of maintaining the status quo and hope that change is coming."
Kunis has been working since the '90s, yet little has improved. "Throughout my career, there have been moments when I have been insulted, sidelined, paid less, creatively ignored, and otherwise diminished based on my gender. 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," she wrote. "But the older I got and the longer I worked in this industry, the more I realized that it's bulls--t! And, worse, that I was complicit in allowing it to happen."
So, Kunis decided to do something about it. She formed a production company with three other women, developing TV shows "with unique voices and perspectives." They have since teamed up with producers—both male and female—"who have treated us as true equals and partners."
But not all partnerships have been positive. After Kunis' team joined forces with "an influential male producer" for a project about "inclusivity and our shared human experience," pitch e-mails were sent back and forth. One of the responses stood out: "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," the Bad Moms actress said. "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."
Kunis' team withdrew its involvement in the project.
"Yes, it is only one small comment. But it's these very comments that women deal with day in and day out in offices, on calls, and in emails—microaggressions that devalue the contributions and worth of hard-working women," she wrote. The producer failed to see the error of his ways. "It became clear in later emails from this producer that he was totally unaware of why his words were so appalling. What he characterized as a 'lighthearted' comment was actually deeply undermining to my contributions and ability to be taken seriously as a creative partner."
And now, Kunis is done "compromising" and "being compromised."
"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," the Friends With Benefits star promised. "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," Kunis added, "I will choose to walk away."
Kunis hopes her op-ed with inspire other women to find their inner strength, too. "If this is happening to me, it is happening more aggressively to women everywhere. I am fortunate that I have reached a place that I can stop compromising and stand my ground, without fearing how I will put food on my table," the actress wrote. "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."