We hear about it all the time: Gender inequality rages, even as many of us try to fight it. The pay gap is real. It’s 2016, and women are still earning less than men — and they’re also forced to fit into gender stereotypes they never asked for, as Mila Kunis reminded us in an essay published by A Plus today.
Kunis kicked things off by telling a story about the time she was asked to pose half naked for a men’s magazine cover, and told that she would “never work in this town again” when she declined. “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 wrote. And although she has the luxury of saying no — or, as she put it, “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” — women don’t always feel like they can do the same. “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,” she wrote.
Sadly, this type of thing happens every day, and women are still under the society-constructed misconception that they have to go along with things, especially in the workplace, unless they want to risk the loss of an opportunity. “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,” Kunis wrote. “We don’t want to be kicked out of the sandbox for being a ‘bitch.’” This often translates into giving up one’s ideals in exchange for trying to avoid stepping on any toes. “We compromise our integrity for the sake of maintaining the status quo and hope that change is coming,” she added.
Change can’t come fast enough — and, unfortunately, it’s not. Kunis cited a recent study by the American Association of University Women, which found that it’ll be 136 years before the pay gap actually shuts. That’s the year 2152, in case anyone wants to set a calendar alert.
“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 this is how it is for one of the most famous women in the country. “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,” she said. And though she did, at one time, try to fit herself into what was expected of her, she’s done with all that. “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.”
So Kunis started her own production company, Orchard Farm Productions, where sexism is a nonentity. When one “influential” producer described her as “a mega star” who is “one of biggest actors in Hollywood and soon to be Ashton’s wife and baby momma” in an email. She and her company cut ties with him completely. Kunis is committed to using her platform as a place to talk about experiences like these as a way to poke a hole in gender conventions and politics and to shed light on what’s really going on behind closed doors. Hopefully, “women in the workplace feel a little less alone and more able to push back for themselves” as a result, she wrote. Next time someone tells you that you’ll never work in this town again if you don’t go along with their scheme, think of Mila.