If you thought you’d made it through the week without a rage-induced blackout, sit down someplace comfortable and behold: Mila Kunis’ experience with an misogynistic producer.
In an open published in A Plus magazine, the actor shared her experience with a man who fulfilled every terrible cliche and told her she’d “never work in this town again.” (Like an actual villain from the 1950s studio system.)
“Throughout my career, there have been moments when I have been insulted, sidelined, paid less, creatively ignored, and otherwise diminished based on my gender,” she 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 realized that it’s bullshit! And, worse, that I was complicit in allowing it to happen.”
Enter: “never work in this town again” dude, who originated after she said she didn’t want to pose nearly nude on the the cover of a men’s magazine.
“I was livid, I felt objectified, and for the first time in my career I said ‘no,'” she continued. “And guess what? The world didn’t end. The film made a lot of money and I did work in this town again, and again, and again. 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.”
And then there was the time where Kunis was referred to as Ashton Kutcher’s “wife and baby mama” in an email about her actual production company, but by a different man because the world is a vampire.
“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,” she explained. “We withdrew our involvement in the project.”
And yes, she ended on a strong note (“I will work in this town again, but I will not work with you” — fuck yes), but her letter is a strong reminder that sexism transcends industry and notoriety and life is exhausting, but especially if you’re a woman dealing with garbage people all the time.
“If this is happening to me, it is happening more aggressively to women everywhere,” Kunis continued. “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. 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.”
And, like, bless. But she’s right: Kunis can speak from a place of financial privilege. It’s scary to stand up for yourself when you’re worried your shifts will be cut or you’ll be phased out and said employer is your only means of income. I remember being a 17-year-old co-op student and worrying I was going to fail my class because dude at the radio station I was working at was harassing me and I hated him/decided to leave. And I was 17 and lived with my parents and co-op wasn’t even about money. Harassment and abuse not only make you feel powerless in the wake of said acts, they make you feel powerless in every other aspect of your life.
Which is why the more we speak out about it, the more unfuckwithable we will be. I’d be lying if I said that being honest about our experiences will change systemic sexism immediately (fun fact: I wish!), but it will slowly push sexist freaks out. It will make it less and less comfortable for them to whip their proverbial dicks out and assert their warped sense of power. It will make life difficult for them, simply by taking away the sense of entitlement and making them second guess their words for fear of our wraths and intolerance of misogyny.
So kudos to Kunis and anyone else willing to say, “This happened to me, and the man in question can walk into the sea.” Talk about it loudly and brazenly and do not allow room for them to gaslight or defend themselves under the umbrella of “boys will be boys.” It happened, it was wrong, it’s time to call shit out. Or more specifically, it’s time to reclaim our spaces and workplaces.
And if anybody has an issue with that, please sit down and get out of the way.