Mila Kunis refused to pose semi-naked and was told she'd “never work again”

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Kayleigh Dray
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Earlier this year, shocking research on sexism in the workplace underlined how far we still have left to go before we reach true gender equality.

After surveying over 1,500 women, researchers found that 52% had experienced “unwanted behaviour” at work, including inappropriate jokes, sexual advances, and groping.

Now Mila Kunis has spoken out about her own experiences of sexism in the workplace – and called for more to be done for women everywhere.

Writing on A Plus, a website co-founded by her husband Ashton Kutcher, the 33-year-old recalled an incident where a producer tried to bully her into posing naked.

He told her, in no uncertain terms, that her career would end if she didn’t do what he wanted. And it proved to be her breaking point:

“[‘You'll never work in this town again’ is] what a producer threatened when I refused to pose semi-naked on the cover of a men's magazine to promote our film,” she explains in her powerful essay.

“I was no longer willing to subject myself to a naive compromise that I had previously been willing to. ‘I will 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.

“What this producer may never realise is that he spoke aloud the exact fear every woman feels when confronted with gender bias in the workplace.”

Kunis continued: “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.”

The Bad Moms actor explained that she has been subjected to sexism throughout her working life, adding that she has been “insulted, side-lined, paid less, creatively ignored, and otherwise diminished” based on her gender.

Determined to make a change, she formed her own production company with “three amazing women”, and that they have sought to work only with people who treated them as “true equals and partners”.

However not everyone they have come across has proven to be worthy of their time.

Kunis described how one “influential male producer” they worked with recently described her as “soon-to-be Ashton's wife and baby momma” while pitching the show they were working on to a major network.

That was, she pointed out, the “entirety of his email”. And, unsurprisingly, the comments hurt Kunis: she felt he had reduced her self-worth to nothing more than her ability to bear a child with a successful actor, while ignoring her own accomplishments.

Following the incident, Kunis did not go ahead with the project.

She has now resolved to stop accepting this sexist mistreatment – so often explained away as ‘banter’ – and speak out to raise awareness, in the hope it will help to correct the problem faster.

“I'm done compromising; even more so, I'm done with being compromised,” she writes. “So from this point forward, when I am confronted with one of these comments, subtle or overt, I will address them head on; I will stop in the moment and do my best to educate.

“I cannot guarantee that my objections will be taken to heart, but at least now I am part of creating an environment where there is the opportunity for growth. And if my comments fall on deaf ears, I will choose to walk away.”

She finishes: “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.”

You can read her thought-provoking essay in full here.

Images: Rex Features


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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.