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Mila Kunis Draws Her Line in the Sexist Hollywood Sand

The actress has published a scathing letter in response to an unnamed producer who told her she’d ‘never work in this town again’ after she refused to pose semi-naked for a magazine

Rachel Shukert
November 04, 2016
Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images
Actress Mila Kunis attends the Los Angeles Premiere of 'Bad Moms in Westwood, California, July 26, 2016. Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images
Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images
Actress Mila Kunis attends the Los Angeles Premiere of 'Bad Moms in Westwood, California, July 26, 2016. Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images

If anything good has come out of the Stephen King-esque endurance contest of horror that has been 2016, it’s the exciting, slightly giddy sense that women have just had it. After centuries of being underpaid, unappreciated, disrespected, screwed over, put in our place, treated like objects, underestimated, taken for granted, sexually assaulted, and generally expected to smile politely while being treated like utter crap, we’re just done. Beyoncé smashed the windshield in the Lemonade video; college-educated female voters will likely doom the electoral prospects of an unreconstructed sexist and admitted sexual predator seeking the world’s most powerful public office. Our time—HER time—is hopefully now.

And the latest powerful, fed-up woman to come forward to say she’s mad as hell and she’s not going to take it anymore is Mila Kunis. On Wednesday she published a scathing open letter on her husband Ashton Kutcher’s website A Plus, attacking an unnamed male producer who told her she’d “never work in this town again” after she refused to pose semi-naked on the cover of a men’s magazine to promote a film. She also takes to task another producer who touted her as “soon-to-be Ashton’s wife and baby momma” as the main reason for the appeal of a shared project, reducing her from an accomplished actress in her own right to the accessory—and brood mare—of a successful man. In so doing, Kunis eloquently takes apart the devil’s bargain that characterizes so many women’s careers in Hollywood: “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 status quo and hope that change is coming.”

To put it simply, it’s hard for anyone to make a career in Hollywood, and for women, the difficulty is compounded: How do you get ahead while staying true to yourself? How much garbage and B.S. and the sexually charged innuendo and unwanted touching and sexist undermining do you have to swallow just for the sake of a career you’ve put everything into?

For Kunis, the answer is none. Good for her.

With one letter, she may not quite have joined the pantheon of great Jewish feminists like Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Letty Cottin Pogrebin, Susan Brownmiller, and Shulamith Firestone, (the fact that so many Jewish women have been on the forefront of the feminist movement is a topic for exploration another time), but she’s fighting back in her own way. And the fact that Kunis—the kind of girl who earlier in her career posed on the cover of men’s mags—is proof positive of Gloria Steinem’s famous maxim that women get more radical as they get older.

Mila Kunis may not transform Hollywood on her own, but the sea change reflected in her statements will. The world can’t function without women. If we stop taking it, sooner or later people are going to have to stop dishing it out. And that’ll be quite a day.

Rachel Shukert is the author of the memoirs Have You No Shame? and Everything Is Going To Be Great,and the novel Starstruck. She is the creator of the Netflix show The Baby-Sitters Club, and a writer on such series as GLOW and Supergirl. Her Twitter feed is @rachelshukert.