Celebrity Activism Series: Mira Sorvino Teaches Us Why Staying Silent Is No Longer An Option

Written by Stephanie Lapointe

“If I were to remain silent, I’d be guilty of complicity.” ― Albert Einstein

When we talk about celebrity activism, there are a few different degrees of involvement from the arts and entertainment community. Some will use their platform to spread awareness of the issues they care about, others will get involved with not-for-profit organizations as celebrity spokespersons to support solutions they believe in, and there are a few who will make it part of their everyday job to do what they can to spark change.

Mira Sorvino, who is best known for her impressive acting career, has chosen the latter. She has made it her job to learn, get involved and to champion several movements that challenge the power dynamics that have systemically taken advantage of the vulnerable.

One way she’s used her platform and voice is by becoming the Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) against Human Trafficking in February 2009 to share the plight of modern-day slavery around the world. She has since extended this role where she’s been given opportunities to talk to IGOs, NGOs, activists and victims to learn more about one of the largest (and de-prioritized) global issues. She’s in this for the long haul because she knows the monumental fight we have ahead of us to even make a small impact on one of the world’s largest and most lucrative criminal enterprises. What makes the fight against modern day slavery so challenging is that it’s ubiquitous, it can be difficult to track, and it often lacks the funding and attention required for long-term solutions.

One way she’s used her platform and voice is by becoming the Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) against Human Trafficking in February 2009 to share the plight of modern-day slavery around the world. She has since extended this role where she’s been given opportunities to talk to IGOs, NGOs, activists and victims to learn more about one of the largest (and de-prioritized) global issues. She’s in this for the long haul because she knows the monumental fight we have ahead of us to even make a small impact on one of the world’s largest and most lucrative criminal enterprises. What makes the fight against modern-day slavery so challenging is that it’s ubiquitous, it can be difficult to track, and it often lacks the funding and attention required for long-term solutions.

And Mira knows this. And that inspires her to work harder to learn, to fight harder and to use her platform to inspire others to share her passion for real change. Because this isn’t a contained issue that can only be changed by stricter laws and government policies. Change comes from all of us; therefore, we need to understand how the network runs and how we benefit from modern-day slavery as she stressed in her lecture at Kegley Institute of Ethics 31st Annual Charles W. Kegley Memorial:

“Everything we buy, everything we use may be touched by slave labor. Your favorite sport shoes, that T-shirt you love, the bathtub you bathe in, may have a component of labor trafficking. We are actually all involved in the maintenance of the slave labor system… It’s everywhere. And it violates the most basic human rights.”

The solution needs to be a global shared effort to change power dynamics, challenge the business models that fund it, find preventative solutions for the most vulnerable and rehabilitation for the millions of victims all over the world.

It may seem impossible but small changes are happening. It takes people with Mira’s heart and determination to accomplish this. One initiative (of many) Mira is working on with the UNODC is to influence airlines to play an active role to help stop the transport of human trafficking victims. One really promising campaign that Mira recently supported is #GetOnBoard by Delta Airlines. This airline is working hard to train its employees all over the world to spot the signs of victims being trafficked on their planes. This shows that change is happening at many levels in society from the private and public sectors along with individual efforts. And we need to continue this approach.

Along with her work with UNODC, Mira is also an advocate in the movement to end sexual harassment and abuse by empowering victims to share their stories and call for systemic change. She was a spokesperson Amnesty International’s “Stop Violence Against Women” campaign for three years and has recently been a strong voice in the #MeToo movement. She even chose to share her own #MeToo story because she felt that if she remained silent, she would be complicit in the problematic power dynamics that have normalized sexual harassment and assault.

Mira hasn’t stopped there. She has also gotten deeply involved in advocating for systemic change by partnering with Equal Rights Advocates on the #TakeTheLead campaign to support laws that give the sexual harassment victims more support to come forward. Although sexual harassment is prohibited in all workplaces in America, we’re learning that many companies have policies in place to protect the accused in these situations which makes it even more daunting for someone to come forward with their story. Mira recently worked with this group to lobby for the newly passed SB 1300 which will make it easier for victims to report harassment, eliminate ‘one free grope’ that gives abusers a free pass, and train all employees about what it means to be a bystander of sexual harassment. This is a huge win that will impact millions of people in California and will, hopefully, become a model for other states to follow. It’s important that it does as Mira explained in a TIME article:

“This is not a partisan issue. It is not relegated to Hollywood, or red or blue states. Almost every woman I know has some harrowing tale of harassment or sexual assault, and almost every one of them has not gone public for a variety of reasons, including shame and fear.”

 

 

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