Sexism in the workplace is an all-too-familiar phenomenon, regardless of whether you’re working in an office or working on a film set.
Mila Kunis just penned an open letter for A Plus in which she describes her own experiences with the unsurprising amount of sexism in the entertainment industry. Kunis says that, once, she was actually scolded by a producing for refusing to do a half-nude photoshoot.
Apparently, during the production of one of Kunis’ films, the producer thought that, if Mila posed semi-nude on the cover of a men’s magazine, it would be beneficial in promoting the movie. When Kunis politely declined this suggestion, the producer said (with a stogie in his mouth, I imagine), “You’ll never work in this town again.”
I was livid, I felt objectified, and for the first time in my career I said “no.” 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.
Kunis says that the incident was just one of the instances of gender bias that women experience on a regular basis — and that it often feels like we should comply with these biases, because we’re worried about causing trouble.
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.” So we compromise our integrity for the sake of maintaining the status quo and hope that change is coming.
It’s easy for us to assume that we’re constantly in the wrong, Kunis says. We’re persistently told that we know less or have less expertise than the men in our chosen fields. In fact, we’re told these things so often, and in such subtle and manipulative ways, that oftentimes we simply choose to believe them.
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. 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.
Kunis acknowledges that she is in a more privileged position than most, and that her experiences are simply echoes of similar incidents experienced by other women.
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. 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.
At the end of the letter, Kunis signs off by directly addressing the producer in question and writing, “I will work in this town again, but I will not work with you.”