Megan Fox made headlines earlier this week after a 2009 Jimmy Kimmel interview sparked outrage on Twitter. But in addition to illustrating how Hollywood takes advantage of young, attractive women, Megan Fox’s story also shows how we’ve historically made women choose between embracing their sexuality and being taken seriously.

From a young age, I was conditioned to believe that Megan Fox was no role model for young women, as if she should be punished for being an attractive, successful woman. And, as it turns out, she seems to have had that reaction from society as a whole.

Back in 2009, a then 23-year-old Fox told The New York Times how her reputation was tarnished by her looks.

“If they think you’re attractive, you’re either stupid or a whore or a dumb whore.

“I sit down and do an interview and I talk like a person and that, for some reason, is shocking. All women in Hollywood are known as sex symbols. You’re sold, and it’s based on sex. That’s O.K., if you know how to use it.”

But despite being painted as nothing more than a sex symbol since the moment she entered the entertainment industry, Fox has consistently used her platform to speak out about important issues long before the #MeToo movement brought them to life.

megan fox
Megan Fox on TODAY in 2018. Photo: Getty.

In a 2009 interview with Jennifer’s Body director Diablo Cody for the ten year anniversary of the now-cult classic, Fox expressed how she felt like there was no real place for her in feminism.

“I feel like feminists don’t want me to be a part of their group. And what are we talking about then, what is feminism, what is supporting females if there’s only certain ones of us you support?”

Throughout the interview she also discussed how her stories of mistreatment in Hollywood weren’t taken seriously.

“I was sort of in front of the #MeToo movement before the #MeToo movement happened. I was speaking out and saying, ‘Hey, these things are happening to me and they’re not ok’. And everyone was like, ‘Fuck you, we don’t care, you deserve it because of how you talk, because of how you look, how you dress, because of the jokes you make’.”

Megan Fox is back in the headlines a clip from the 2009 Kimmel interview went viral on Twitter. In the interview, she talks about Bad Boys II director Michael Bay asking her to dance underneath a waterfall while wearing a bikini, to get around the fact that a then-15-year-old Fox couldn’t legally be holding a drink in the club scene. Both Kimmel and the audience laugh.

Although she’s since spoken out about her experiences with Bay, saying he “never assaulted or preyed upon in what [she] felt was a sexual manner,” Fox’s experiences in the entertainment industry, and just the way society has treated her throughout her career, illustrate a major problem in the way we view women.

In a statement recently posted to Instagram, she said:

“Please hear me when I thank you for your support. But these specific instances were inconsequential in a long and arduous journey along which I have endured some genuinely harrowing experiences in a ruthlessly misogynistic industry.”

Despite consistently proving herself to be an intelligent, well-spoken and talented woman, Fox has blatantly been bullied by Hollywood, the media and society in general basically just for being “hot.”

Megan Fox in ‘Transformers’ (2007).

For example, have a read of this excerpt from a 2008 Observer article simply titled ‘Why We’re Officially Over Megan Fox’:

“The 22-year-old Ms. Fox is an alluring combination of Angelina Jolie, Jordana Brewster and a porn star; ridiculously gorgeous yet still kinda trashy. The problem is Ms. Fox’s persona. For starters, she’s barely an actress. We’re pretty confident we can say that because we’ve seen Transformers about ten times, and both talking robots and a little Chihuahua upstage her in it. Other than that movie, what has she done? She’s playing the lead in the next Diablo Cody-scripted movie. Is that supposed to make me think, outside of her body, she’s relevant as an actress? Considering the movie is called Jennifer’s Body and Ms. Fox plays Jennifer, probably not.”

But the final line of the article is the real kicker here:

“We want an actress that combines talent, beauty and actually has something to say. Where is the next Angelina Jolie? We’re waiting.”

Megan Fox has had *a lot* to say since the moment she first entered the industry, but society decided that a woman couldn’t possibly be both beautiful and well-spoken, so we decided to mute her.

But this isn’t just a Megan Fox problem. It’s a problem in the way we view attractive, or sexually-expressive women.

For too long, we’ve treated women like they must choose between being “sexy” and sexually expressive, and being an intelligent, worthy woman with a voice that deserves to be heard.

We’ve made huge steps in the right direction when it comes to taking sex work seriously (although we’re far from perfect), but we have historically categorised women as either “sexy” or “worthy”, and when you think about it, that’s a really fucked up way of thinking.

As young women, we’re warned not to post lingerie photos or “thirst-traps”, or dress too provocatively because it makes us look unprofessional or less worthy than those who choose to cover up. But why can’t we be both?

Why can’t women be sexually expressive and proud of their bodies while also being intelligent, worthy and talented? Why were we taught that Megan Fox can’t be a role model, when she’s had a relatively unproblematic career, apart from the fact that she’s wildly attractive? Why does being “sexy” have to discount anything else a woman can be?

For far too long we’ve pushed a narrative that women must choose one or the other. And to be quite honest, it promotes a toxic culture of pitting women against each other, that has resulted in us tearing each other down.

But let’s be real here, why can’t we be both? Megan Fox sure is.

If this week’s news cycle has made you think twice about the way you’ve viewed Megan Fox, I strongly urge you to take a good, hard look at the women around you who you may have written off as unworthy or unintelligent simply because they choose to embrace their sexuality.

Yes, you can be both sexy and smart. You can have a nice body and have something important to say. Posting that thirst-trap on Instagram doesn’t mean you’re any less valuable than the girl who chooses to remain more covered up. It’s 2020 and you can be whatever the fuck you want to be.

Image: Getty