How Mia Kirshner and the #AfterMeToo campaign worked to create social change beyond Hollywood
Mike Lewis Photography
Local actor Mia Kirshner and others are harnessing the wave of energy from the recent focus on sexual harassment and assault, and pushing for change in the entertainment industry and around the world.
Tell me where the #AfterMeToo campaign is headed?
In March, we have this huge report coming out. What makes this report unique is that we know we want it to be read by a wide audience, so we are making this report interactive. So it’s reachable to a lot of people. And I think this report could potentially stand as a model in the way change is created now.
So there will be an interactive tool kit?
Yep, it will be a model. I mean, these black and white reports you see at the UN contain the most incredible information on human rights, but I fear they are not going to be read by as many people simply because they aren’t accessible. Our goal is to make this report as accessible as possible and compelling as possible in terms of the narrative. It’s an extremely unique idea, and I believe we will be having some sort of a town hall at the same time. It’s a new way of approaching all of this stuff. And I’ll be meeting with the minister of justice, the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould.
When you wrote your piece in the Globe & Mail, why was it important to move past Harvey Weinstein?
I don’t want to give him space. Why would I do that? And I understand that’s what some people wanted to do, and that’s fair enough. But for me, the only way that I wanted to talk about it was to talk about the failings within our own institutions, to protect and tighten up policy. And the general hypocrisy I saw time and time again when people who claim to be liberals were actually enabling this kind of behaviour and protecting people like Harvey Weinstein. And once Jodi Kantor’s article came out [breaking the Weinstein sexual misconduct story], it just seemed like a point of no return. It didn’t feel like I’d be living authentically if I’d said nothing because I said nothing for a very long time and just watched.
You’ve worked a lot in Toronto. Are the issues there the same?
Of course. They are everywhere. They are as prevalent in Canada as they are in the States as they are in Colombia — this is a universal problem.
Was the reaction by, for example Netflix regarding Kevin Spacey, what you expected?
I don’t know. I mean yes, because there is a lot of pressure on these organizations. But what concerns me is due process being applied. Part of the problem with all of this is that regulations and policies of many organizations aren’t clear. So when somebody is found to have an allegation of sexual misconduct against them, I would like to see a very clear policy and procedure in place to make sure this is investigated thoroughly, that somebody is not losing a job just because of an allegation. We really need due process.
You’ve gotten support for coming forward but also for continuing the push and harnessing this energy.
I never really ‘came forward’ because I never talked about what happened. I didn’t feel it was relevant. But in terms of the response, I think that what is very clear in terms of what we were able to do in the [#AfterMeToo] Symposium is that the reaction was extremely positive because we are only talking about solutions.
What happened at the symposium?
It was a two-day symposium. The first day it was a series of roundtables. The second day was the town hall — well, we actually had more roundtables. Basically, a 12-hour roundtable symposium with two case studies based on real events. From those roundtables, we published in the Globe very broad-stroke recommendations. But there is going to be so much more.
What’s the most common #MeToo myth?
I think that the work is over now that people are speaking out and that things are going to change. That’s a myth because nothing is going to change unless you change it yourself. The only way to guarantee change is to make sure there is binding legislation and policy that is survivor-centred.
What has to happen?
Obviously this is in every single workplace, so the best thing that can come out of this, from my point of view, is the changing legislation and policy, but also having people who have done what we’ve done in their own work environments, standing up, rising up and organizing and saying no more to terrible oversight within their own companies in terms of handling misconduct.
What can men do?
The same thing we are doing because it’s our issue. It’s not a women’s issue. I think that’s one of the things that has to change now. This can’t just be women working together and men just stepping back.… And in terms of bystander intervention, I think it’s essential that those that don’t quite understand what to do, be it a man or a women, learn how to protect a friend or a colleague should this happen. Because, in my opinion, keeping silent is equally as bad when you know something happened and you don’t intervene.