The fallout from the Weinstein scandal has inspired women across the entertainment industry to go public with their stories of men abusing their positions of power to get away with sexual harassment. This week multiple women came forward with harassment stories involving animation veteran Chris Savino, who has now been fired from Nickelodeon.
The problem isn’t going to go away, though, without tougher standards against unwanted sexual advances, which nearly every woman working in the industry has experienced at some point. Variety reports on a new letter sent to higher-ups in the animation business which describes common incidents like “tossed-off comments about our body parts that were framed as ‘jokes’ to women being cornered in dark rooms by male colleagues to criminal assault.”
The letter, demanding not just a change in laws but a change in the culture that allows sexual harassment to happen, was signed by 217 women including Steven Universe creator Rebecca Sugar, MLP:FIM creator Lauren Faust, Rick & Morty writer Jessica Gao, and Bob’s Burgers producer Wendy Molyneux. It was sent to executives at Disney, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, DreamWorks Animation, Bento Box, OddBot, Paramount, Shadowmachine, Sony Pictures Animation, Stoopid Buddy, Titmouse, and Warner Bros.
An Open Letter to the Animation Community
We, the women and gender non-conforming people of the animation community, would like to address and highlight the pervasive problem of sexism and sexual harassment in our business. We write this letter with the hope that change is possible, and ask that you listen to our stories and then make every effort to bring a real and lasting change to the culture of animation studios.
In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, many of the women who work in animation have begun discussing more openly issues that we have dealt with quietly throughout our careers. As we came together to share our stories of sexism, sexual harassment and, in some cases, sexual assault, we were struck by the pervasiveness of the problem. Every one of us has a story to share, from tossed-off comments about our body parts that were framed as “jokes” to women being cornered in dark rooms by male colleagues to criminal assault.
Our business has always been male-dominated. Women make up only 23% of union employees, so it’s no surprise that problems with sexism and sexual harassment exist. Sexual harassment and assault are widespread issues that primarily affect women, with women of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community and other marginalized groups affected at an even greater rate.
As more women have entered the animation workforce, it seems that some men have not embraced this change. They still frequently make crass sexual remarks that make it clear women are not welcome on their crews. Some have pressed colleagues for romantic or sexual relationships, despite our clear disinterest. And some have seen the entrance of more women into the industry as an opportunity to exploit and victimize younger workers on their crews who are looking for mentorship. In addition, when sexual predators are caught at one workplace, they seem to easily find a job at another studio, sometimes even following their victims from job to job. We are tired of relying on whisper networks to know who isn’t safe to meet with alone. We want our supervisors to protect us from harassment and assault.
This abuse has got to stop.
The signatories of this letter demand that you take sexual harassment seriously. We ask that:
1. Every studio puts in place clear and enforceable sexual harassment policies and takes every report seriously. It must be clear to studio leadership, including producers, that, no matter who the abuser is, they must investigate every report or face consequences themselves.
2. The Animation Guild add language in our constitution that states that it can “censure, fine, suspend or expel any member of the guild who shall, in the opinion of the Executive Board, be found guilty of any act, omission, or conduct which is prejudicial to the welfare of the guild.” To craft and support the new language, we ask that an Anti-Harassment and Discrimination Committee be created to help educate and prevent future occurrences.
3. Our male colleagues start speaking up and standing up for us. When their co-workers make sexist remarks, or when they see sexual harassment happening, we expect them to say something. Stop making excuses for bad behavior in your friends and co-workers, and tell them what they are doing is wrong.
It has not been easy for us to share our stories with each other. Many of us were afraid because our victimizers are powerful or well-liked. Others were worried that if they came forward it would affect their careers. Some of us have come forward in the past, only to have our concerns brushed aside, or for our supervisors to tell us “he’s just from a different era.” All of us are saddened and disheartened to hear how widespread the problem of sexual harassment still is in the animation industry, and how many of our friends had been suffering in secret.
It is with this in mind that we resolve to do everything we can to prevent anyone else from being victimized. We are united in our mission to wipe out sexual harassment in the animation industry, and we will no longer be silent.
Ae Ri Yoon
Anne Walker Farrell
Elizabeth (Betsy) Bauer
Ilana M Schwartz
Jessica von Medicus
Karen C. Johnson
Mariah-Rose Marie M
Reem S. Ali-adeeb
Tara N Whitaker
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