Remember those cigarette advertisements in the ’70s and ’80s where confident women posed with “for women only” ciggies under the bold caption: “You’ve come a long way, baby”?
Women of my mom and grandmother’s generation probably thought these advertisements were empowering. Women had come a long way, when you compared women’s equality in the ’70s to women’s equality in the ’50s. Today we know that cigarettes are bad for you and decidedly un-sexy. If someone told a strong woman of today, “You’ve come a long way, baby,” she’d probably kick your ass and tell you she’s not your baby.
Today, we’re socializing our daughters to believe they are every bit as strong, smart, and capable as men. Because they are.
But is society really getting the message? Are we?
Actress, producer, wife, and mom Mila Kunis challenges all of us in her open letter originally published on Medium two days ago. Kunis’s letter is eloquent and thoughtful, passionate and blunt. She makes us wonder if times are changing fast enough for the next generation of future badass females.
When we think of gender equality and female empowerment, the entertainment industry might not immediately come to mind, but why the hell shouldn’t it? We tell our daughters they can be doctors, lawyers, and astronauts, but what if they want to be actresses or television executives? Are they going to be on the same playing field as men or are they going to be more valued for their looks or who they’re connected to than skills and abilities? Do some industries still have different rules for women and double standards?
“You’ll never work in this town again.”
Yes, that statement is a total cliché but this is what was said to Kunis by a producer in response to her refusal to pose semi-nude on the cover of a men’s magazine to promote a film. This was the first time in her career she said no. The world didn’t end. The movie made money and Kunis did work in this town again. And again. And again.
Can you envision the tables being turned? What if a man refused to pose semi-nude to promote a movie? Would a producer tell him his career was in jeopardy and threaten his ability to get future work? All because he dared to say he was uncomfortable with the idea of letting it all hang out on a magazine cover?
I don’t see it happening.
Kunis writes: “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.”
Kunis goes on to reference a study by the American Association of University Women that shows the pay gap between men and women is closing at such a slow rate that it will be 136 years before women are paid equally to men. Those are some very disheartening statistics in this day and age when we tell our daughters they can do anything they want, including be President of the United States.
“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. So, I started my own club.”
Kunis formed a production company with three other women and began to develop television shows. In the process of pitching a show – ironically about inclusivity and shared human experience – to a major network, a producer chose to email the following as a stand-alone response to an email:
“And Mila is a mega star. One of the biggest actors in Hollywood and soon to be Ashton’s wife and baby momma!!!”
Really? Also, the fact that this guy put three exclamation points after baby momma is totally annoying me.
No mention of Kunis’s significant creative and logistical contributions. I guess that’s not important when you’re married to a successful man and have baby-making equipment.
“I’m done compromising; even more so, I’m done with being compromised. 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 opportunity for growth. And if my comments fall on deaf ears, I will choose to walk away.”
Our daughters need to read this, to believe this, to live this. And so do we. Because, as Kunis reminds us, if it’s happening to her, it’s happening more aggressively to women everywhere.
Success is probably the best revenge but her parting shot for the producer who was butt hurt because she didn’t want to do a cheesecake photo to promote his film?
“I will work in this town again, but I will not work with you.”
As much as we like to think that glass ceiling has been shattered, little things like this are happening to women everywhere. We still have work to do. Mila Kunis is standing with us and for us.
I think we need to stand with her.
Read the full letter. Share it with your daughters if they’re old enough and if they’re not, walk your talk. Show them by example what a strong woman looks like and acts like. Do better. Be better. We may have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.
h/t: USA Today