A recent New York Times story examined how a network of enablers, silencers and spies helped Harvey Weinstein keep his alleged sexual misconduct a secret. The Times reported that agents at major firms had been informed of Weinstein’s conduct — but continued to arrange private meetings with actresses. Such was the case with Mia Kirshner, whose credits include The L Word and Defiance and was offered a movie role in exchange for sex with Weinstein. The actress, who was 19 at the time, said she was encouraged by her former Creative Artists Agency representative to “forget about it; it was pointless to do anything about this.” CAA responded to the article with a blanket apology “to any person the agency let down.” Deadline published that statement, and Kirshner asked to respond. A CAA spokesperson said the agency is already implementing some of the changes Kirshner calls for below.
My name is Mia Kirshner. I was a client of yours a very long time ago.
I am also one of the many women who was sexually harassed by Harvey Weinstein while represented by CAA. I am also one of the people who reported to my agent at CAA right after this happened.
Three days ago, I stumbled upon a public apology you made. “We want to make clear to clients and colleagues that even one of our clients being harassed over the company’s 42 years is one too many…We are here to serve, fight for, and protect our clients. We apologize to any person the agency let down for not meeting the high expectations we place on ourselves, as individuals and as a company”
Who is this apology for and what is its purpose? Whatever your objective, there is a glaring omission in your apology.
The omission is me and all of the other people who have been harmed by failing to act on reports of sexual misconduct. Each of us needs a personal apology, and not a form letter.
You didn’t directly apologize to me. That’s odd, because it’s a contradiction to the high standards you claim to hold yourself to. That’s why I’m writing.
To begin, I want to understand you and what kind of thought process went into drafting this public-facing apology. Are your more intimate apologies reserved to those you deem important enough to call personally?
Whatever the case, your current response is devoid of common sense, which is terrifying. Before you release a public apology to the press, the first thing you do is contact the very people who you are apologizing too. Your apology is dismissive.
It is also emblematic of a much larger problem. Millions of people, when reporting a claim of workplace sexual misconduct, are sloughed off and dismissed by management. Consequently, it discourages others from coming forward, which allows sexual misconduct to go unchecked.
How do we move forward? How will you let your clients know that you are actually going to protect them from workplace sexual predators?
As a start, it’s now too late to apologize. That ship sailed long ago. I want is to turn this negative experience into a positive, and work to create lasting survivor-centered reform. If CAA has begun to make these changes, please make these advancements available to all industry members, at no cost to the user.
This is what I would like from you:
1. Contribute financially to the creation of a blacklisting software application. This would be made available to all agencies, and other pertinent stakeholders, with the purpose of preventing blacklisting. Many do not report workplace sexual misconduct because of the fear of retaliation. This software would monitor the practice of blacklisting as a result of sexual misconduct. Use of this application should be free to users.
2. Financially back the creation and promotion of software that will allow the user to report sexual misconduct. This software could be partially modeled on the work of Callisto, a non-profit organization that created a confidential way for college students to document and report unwanted sexual contact or assault. The reporting process must give control and ownership back to the survivor.
3. Fund and promote an industry-wide survey which focuses on workplace sexual misconduct and the changes needed too move forward. All data collected should be made publicly available.
4. Coordinate and lead the fundraising process to ensure that each of these initiatives is appropriately resourced.
5. As the co-founder of the After #MeToo symposium and the creator of I Live Here, a four-volume anthology of global human rights abuses published by Pantheon Books, I want to oversee this effort to ensure accountability. I want to oversee the development, staffing and creation of each of the items in this letter.
6. Give a written commitment to all of the above along with a mutually agreed implementation timeline.
Understand that by doing this you are not erasing the past and all the pain your lack of oversight caused. What you do have is the opportunity to set an example for other companies like yours, that ignored reports of sexual misconduct. Reinvest some of the profits you earn from the actors, directors and producers you represent into establishing greater protections for the industry. Recently you said, “We are here to serve, fight for, and protect our clients.” If that’s what you truly believe, then fight. Battle for holistic protections. If not, you will send a clear message to the industry: The sum of your fight is just another flaccid apology.
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.