via Flickr user (cc) Derrick Deane
Although the film industry is known for being a huge proponent of progressive values, it has always had a dark, sexist underbelly. Throughout its history, Hollywood has systematically marginalized women by making them side characters in films, preventing them from reaching positions of power, and subjecting actresses to sexual harassment. So this week, actress Mila Kunis took a bold step for women everywhere by going public about how she confronted the sexist system.
In an op-ed piece for A Plus, Kunis revealed that when she refused to pose semi-naked on the cover of a men’s magazine to promote a film, its producer told her she’d “never work in this town again.” But Kunis stood her ground and said “no” for the first time and suffered no repercussions. This experience led her to a powerful realization that could empower other women. “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 bullshit! And, worse, that I was complicit in allowing it to happen.”
Kunis knows she’s not the only the only woman who’s had to swim upstream against the current of sexism. “We are conditioned to believe — that if we speak up, our livelihoods will be threatened; that standing our ground will lead to our demise.” she wrote. “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.”
Kunis’ decision to stand her ground led her to create a production company with three other women. By taking full control of their professional lives the women now partner exclusively with those who treat them as equals. This newfound power allowed the company to withdraw from a major project when an executive made a sexist remark about Kunis. “Mila is a mega star,” the executive wrote in an email. “One of biggest actors in Hollywood and soon to be Ashton’s wife and baby momma!!!”
Kunis’ evolution from an actress who felt powerless in a patriarchal industry to a woman who stood up to sexism, is a powerful example for people everywhere. “I’m done compromising; even more so, I’m done with being compromised,” she wrote. Although not all women are in a position to risk their livelihoods fighting gender bias, Kunis’ piece is a road map showing one way to succeed in the face of patriarchy.