Are Celebrities Effective Voices for Feminism?

Because Mila Kunis has something to say.

11.04.16
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Famous women are very clearly tired of Hollywood’s bullshit. The latest installment of this dropped on Wednesday, in the form of Mila Kunis’ open letter in A Plus about her experience wading through the storied misogyny the industry is known for. The piece doesn’t break ground; it just kind of stomps around in a familiar mud pit.

“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.”

Her characterization of producers and execs makes me do a combo-pack of yawning and whatever this sound is: UGhhhhhhhhhhhHhhhhHHhhhHHhhhhhhhhhhh. One producer told her she’d “never work in this town again” if she didn’t pose semi-naked on a men’s magazine. Another — who she was meant to be collaborating with as a producer herself — described her in an email as “Ashton’s wife and baby mama” in lieu of using her personal accolades.

These are tiny moments. I get why some people might be sick of hearing about them. Micro-aggressions don’t quite pack the same punch as — just to pull a random example out of thin air — being grabbed by the pussy. And micro-aggressions lodged against filthy rich celebrity women whose lives are defined by awe-inspiring opportunities most people can’t even conceptualize? They feel even more microscopic.

Remember Jennifer Lawrence’s essay in Lenny Letter about making less than her male costars?

“It’s hard for me to speak about my experience as a working woman because I can safely say my problems aren’t exactly relatable.” she wrote. And a little later: “I didn’t want to keep fighting over millions of dollars that, frankly, due to two franchises, I don’t need. (I told you it wasn’t relatable, don’t hate me).”

Micro-aggressions are problematic as fuck. But Lawrence is right. It is hard to relate to her woes and those of others like her. I’ve stumbled at times myself. But this is where framing and acknowledgement become important. Because, like it or not, celebrity women are beacons of representation.

Kunis’ final statement: “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.”

She’s addressing her privilege. She’s saying that her experience is worthy of sharing because it’s indicative of worse behavior elsewhere. But I think it’s worthy of sharing for another reason: the struggles of celebrity women don’t just echo through their mansions, they echo everywhere. They manifest in failed Bechdel tests, sexist magazine covers, a continued tradition of the marginalization of an entire gender in the media. “Micro-aggressions” in Hollywood grow legs, nestle into the collective unconscious and become macro. These women should keep talking, and we should keep listening.

Photo by Daniel Zuchnik/WireImage via Getty Images.

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