Mila Kunis Pens Gender-Bias Essay

November 7, 2016

Mila Kunis describes herself as “livid” in a recently penned essay calling out Hollywood on issues of gender bias. The essay was published on her husband, Ashton Kutcher’s website aplus.com.

The Black Swan star describes her experience with an unnamed producer who was pressuring her to pose semi-nude for a men’s magazine to promote an undisclosed film. However, Kunis writes, “I was no longer willing to subject myself to a naive compromise that I had previously been willing to.” This refusal was met with a threat by the producer: “You’ll never work in this town again.” Feeling livid and objectified, Mila stood her ground for the first time despite fearing the possible repercussions to her career. Much to her relief, she states, “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.”

Mila joins a growing list of women who have called out industry sexism over the years. Other actresses taking a stand include Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, Zoe Saldana, Sandra Bullock, Kerry Washington and Geena Davis. Indeed, according to research from Geena Davis’ Institute on Gender in Media, women are underrepresented in film, and when they do appear, they are seen and heard far less than their male counterparts. They are also paid less, and are three times as likely to appear nude in scenes as their fellow male actors.

However, Kunis describes several kinds of “microaggressions” she’s encountered along her career path, saying:

“Throughout my career, there have been moments when I have been insulted, sidelined, paid less, creatively ignored, and otherwise diminished based on my gender. And always, 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. 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 b***! And, worse, that I was complicit in allowing it to happen.”

To rise above this treatment, Kunis formed a production company with three women she admires. Together they develop shows for television, and work with many professionals who demonstrate equity and respect while tending to project details. However, Kunis describes how from time to time she continues to encounter “appalling” comments from others.

In turn, she concludes with purpose:

“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 the opportunity for growth. And if my comments fall on deaf ears, I will choose to walk away.”

She hopes other women who experience similar unwanted remarks and diminishing treatment in the workplace will be inspired to assert themselves more readily.

Brie Larson On Achieving Your Dreams

March 11, 2016

Brie Larson recently transformed from a struggling actress playing supporting roles in films such as 21 Jump Street and Trainwreck to winning an Oscar for Best Leading Actress. In the pressroom just after being celebrated for her performance as “Ma” in the indie drama Room, the 26 year old was asked if she had any advice for people who have yet to achieve their dreams.

“You just have to do it. I mean, I wish that there was any sort of rules or code, but in fact I think the way that you get there is by breaking it, by listening to what’s happening inside of yourself. I personally had many moments of crossroads–probably hundreds of moments of crossroads–where I could go the way that people were telling me to go, or I could go the way that felt right within me. And it took me twenty years to be standing here on this stage. But I wouldn’t want it any other way. To be so grateful for all of the hardships that it took to get here, and not be discouraged by it. I think to live this life, it’s a bizarre combination of being plastic, and incredibly stubborn, and also really curious about what this life holds. To have no expectation, but to have an idea about a beautiful horizon that’s in front of you, and constantly moving towards it.”

Larson was then asked about the times she learned to stand up for herself along the way in her acting journey. She described “huge moments” in her career when she deliberately chose to follow her heart rather than do as she was told. “In particular, there were many times that I’d go into auditions and casting directors would say, ‘It’s really great, really love what you’re doing, but we’d love for you to come back in a jean miniskirt and high heels,” she recalled. Larson believed she was being asked to dress that way for no good reason “other than the fact that you want to create some fantasy and you want to have this moment.” The star learned to set clear boundaries by rejecting such requests, saying, “For me, I personally always rejected that moment; I tried maybe once, and it always made me feel terrible. Because they were asking me to wear a miniskirt and heels to be sexy, but a jean mini skirt and heels does not make me feel sexy; it makes me feel uncomfortable.”

This proved to be a good move for Larson. She’s now being called the newest Hollywood “It” girl. Although it seems her rise has come about suddenly, in truth she’s been working at her career since she was six years old when she became the youngest person to ever attend a theater training program in San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater. She was seven when she landed her first role in a commercial skit on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. From there, she continued to land small roles in a variety of television shows, and later turned her focus to pursuing a career in music. In fact, Larson released an album entitled Finally Out of P.E. during her teen years, but when the album didn’t take off as she’d hoped, she continued with landing supporting roles including being cast in Showtime’s The United States of Tara. But it was Larson’s portrayal as a supervisor in a home for troubled teens in the drama Short Term 12 that earned her three Spirit Award nominations and drew the attention of the director of Room, Lenny Abrahamson.

There were times along the way when Larson considered giving up on her acting aspirations, but instead she forged ahead, learning to be strengthened by her convictions. As for those instances when she’d receive yet another miniskirt talk, she explains, “Learning, for me, what it took to feel confident and strong, and take what these people were trying to get to exude out of me come from a personal place and from my place, and trying to represent in film women that I know, women that I understand, complicated women, women that are inside of me–that became my mission.” 

Have you ever found the need to set clear boundaries when you audition? Have you ever felt tempted to “give in” hoping to land the part?

 

Should the Federal Government Help Solve Gender Inequality in Hollywood?

October 11, 2015

Several months ago, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) officially reached out to state and federal governments to investigate Hollywood gender inequality. Specifically, they sought help from agencies including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) about the “widespread exclusion of women directors from employment in directing episodic television and feature films.” After all, a study investigating who held behind-the-camera jobs in the top films of 2014 indicated that only 1.9% of directors were female, and 18 percent of first-time TV directors were women.

Well, the EEOC has agreed to investigate the matter. Starting next week, they will begin interviewing female directors regarding any discrimination they believe they’ve experienced. These interviews have the potential to result in a class-action lawsuit against Hollywood lead by the government. Before this, if a woman in the industry thought she’d been unfairly treated, she would have had to file an individual lawsuit, and risk being blacklisted.

It should be noted, the EEOC’s present inquiry does not look at women holding other Hollywood job titles. For example, the same 2014 research found only 11 percent of writers and 18.9 percent of producers were women; and when it came to speaking acting parts, a mere 28.1 percent went to women, and female lead roles or co-leads only went to 21 out of the 100 movies.

Many people feel this government involvement is a much needed step in advancing gender equality in the industry overall. For instance, actress, director, and producer Salma Hayek recently asserted at Variety’s Power of Women event, “The industry has neglected women and its evolution for many years. There’s also not writers, not producers, not directors that have the freedom to tell our story from our perspective.” But she remains hopeful that things are progressing, saying, “I think that we are in a different era now where I am very optimistic that things are going to change only because I think the industry is beginning to realize what an economic work force [women] are.”

On the other hand, many people have a hard time sympathizing with members of the Hollywood elite who tend to make exceptional money and yet seem to be complaining. They argue that this is a free country, and anybody can go out and make their own movies on their own terms and hire anyone they desire and assume the financial risks; ultimately, it’s the audiences who decide which projects profit or tank, so blaming the “men at the top” is a false premise. And some people feel that turning this into a federal matter is over the top.

What is your opinion? Are you pleased the feds are involved on behalf of gender equality, or are you left shaking your head wondering why the government needs to be involved with such issues?