The founder of Me Too movement is Tarana Burke. Sarah Polley reflects on the landslide of revelations of sexual misconduct in the entertainment business.
The Canadian actress and activist said last week at a Toronto panel discussing sexual harassment in the film industry, “We’ve all been complicit in this culture: we’ve all seen things, we’ve let them slide. We would have never gone to a producer to report it, because no one would have cared. Right? That was the culture — we were all used to it.”
But “that complicity is changing,” she says.
What’s galvanized Polley, industry leaders and activists in this climate — where sexual misconduct is being called out and dozens of power players are tumbling — is the opportunity for a significant cultural shift towards safer, gender-balanced and more diversified workplaces.
Today, actor Mia Kirshner, filmmaker Aisling Chin-Yee and actor-producer Freya Ravensbergen are kicking off a two-day symposium they’ve spearheaded. Entitled #AfterMeToo, it brings together members of the Canadian film and TV community, trauma experts, lawyers, activists and politicians in Toronto to discuss practical ways to combat sexual harassment, assault and abuse.
Actress Mia Kirshner says, “We created #AfterMeToo because we didn’t feel heard from within the system.” The goal is to explore the issue from a survivor’s point of view and make recommendations for industrial policy, new legislation and changes to the justice system.
Topics Kirshner is eager to explore include review of sexual harassment and assault complaints by independent parties “not beholden to protecting the organization,” online reporting systems that can track whether accusers subsequently face reprisal or industry blacklisting, increasing mental health support for victims and greater accessibility to and advances in sexual assault kits.
“The whole purpose of #AfterMeToo is to work together, not to work separately. No one is pointing a finger at one place. It’s a systematic breakdown.”
The current atmosphere has inspired much conversation about reprehensible behaviour on entertainment industry sets, with many saying that observing basic tenets like treating people with respect and valuing everyone as equals would be two simple steps.
Many in the entertainment world feel that achieving positive outcomes in their industry — which garners attention around the globe — can serve as the vanguard for other sectors. There is a sentiment being touted universally across the board: now is a decisive moment of change.