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Artist Rights

Over 200 Women In L.A.’s Animation Industry Demand Studios End Sexual Harassment In The Workplace

Over 200 women and gender-nonconforming people in the American animation industry, most of them artists based in Los Angeles, published an open letter this afternoon with a clear and simple mission statement: “Wipe out sexual harassment in the animation industry.”

The letter was sent to executives at all of the major Los Angeles studios including Disney, Dreamworks, Warner Bros., Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Paramount, Sony Pictures Animation, Titmouse, Bento Box, Oddbot, Shadowmachine, and Stoopid Buddy.

Inspired by the recent downfalls of Harvey Weinstein and Roy Price who used their position as Hollywood executives to abuse women, animation artists are making specific demands of animation studios as well as male artists working in the business and the union that represents Los Angeles animation artists, The Animation Guild Local 839 IATSE.

According to Buzzfeed, where the letter first appeared online, the letter has been in the works since at least last week, meaning that it is not specifically related to Cartoon Brew’s report earlier this week that Nickelodeon had suspended The Loud House creator Chris Savino after a dozen allegations of workplace harassment against women.

The signatories are requesting that all studios institute “clear and enforceable sexual harassment policies,” and that studios further pledge to take reports of workplace harassment seriously. Additionally, the letter asks that male colleagues “start speaking up and standing up for us” when they see sexist remarks or sexual harassment happening at the studio,” and that the union creates new policies to expel those who are found guilty of “conduct which is prejudicial to the welfare of the guild.”

The letter is signed by 217 people comprising a who’s who of the animation industry, among them prominent show creators Rebecca Sugar (Steven Universe), Lauren Faust (My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic), Shadi Petosky (co-creator, Danger & Eggs), Rikke Asbjoern (co-creator, Pinky Malinky), and Julia Pott (Summer Camp Island); industry execs Audrey Diehl (vp of series, Warner Bros. Animation), Jenna Boyd (director, kids & family creative, Netflix), and Jill Sanford (kids and family creative development, Netflix); and numerous other high-profile creative talents including Adventure Time director Elizabeth Ito, Pearl production designer Tuna Bora, Dreamworks TV Animation supervising producer Aliki Theofilopoulos, Bob’s Burgers writer/supervising producer Wendy Molyneux, Frozen and Kung Fu Panda 3 story artist Clio Chiang, and Wreck-It Ralph 2 assistant production designer Mingjue Chen.

Below is the full text of the letter:

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.

Signed,

womeninaniamtion_letter

If any animation studios wish to speak to Cartoon Brew about new policies and efforts that they will be making to address these issues, we welcome hearing from you. Please drop us a line.

Pictured in header image (L-to-R): Julia Pott, Rebecca Sugar, Lauren Faust.

  • Harriet

    I do believe this letter is a little related (and some of us may have known about Savino prior to the article)

    • AmidAmidi

      Aah, thanks for clarifying. Our understanding is Savino’s suspension started around Wednesday of last week so the timing makes sense.

  • Pedro Nakama

    I’m glad to see people speaking up about sexual harassment in the animation industry. They also need to speak up and claim the overtime hours they’ve worked and no longer expect employers to have them work for free.

    • Josh Evans

      Yeah, the animation and vfx industry are plagued with issues. I’m truly heartened to see the major issue of sexism and abuse addressed head-on though. Finally.

  • I’m really annoyed that this stuff still happens. You can’t be sexually harassing people in the workplace, whether male or female. This is one of the ways companies get into trouble.

  • Mur Ploxy

    I am one of the most Perverted minds in artistry~Cough~Hentai~Cough~, And i can’t even imagine doing these to people I work with. Shame on these guys and More Power to People speaking up against this. People go to work to WORK. To Make ART. Not to feel uncomfortable. Not to feel like the Boss around is trying to get a Hit up on em. It’s Disgusting, even to me. This is Real Life people. Thoughts of Perversion should be Kept up in your Heads, relieve yourself in your own Privacy with your own thoughts. Don’t go dragging down innocent people who want nothing to do with your arousals.

  • AP

    Notice how everyone in these comments agrees this is a serious issue — but look at the comment section below the article about Chris Savino and you’ll see tons of men defending/deflecting/saying “what happened to innocent until proven guilty!” Just shows that we have a long way to go.

    I applaud these women for speaking up! As a man, I believe we all can look inward and question whether we are part of the problem, or part of the solution. Staying silent or turning a blind eye is not enough anymore.

  • Bee

    [Comment removed by editors. Per our commenting guidelines, “It is OK to post with a nickname or alias, but your email address (which we will NEVER share publicly), must be a real, permanent email address. Comments with fake or non-permanent emails will be deleted.”]

  • That Guy

    I’m all for stopping sexual harassment. I think it’s disgusting behavior that can and should be punished. Speaking up when sexual harassment takes place is good, and no one should be coerced or threatened into silence. Every case should be judged by the merits of the evidence so that each party gets justice.

    For this reason, I’m very skeptical of one particular line of the petition that “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.”

    This sounds like a good idea on paper, but I’m not sure that the people who signed this petition understand the potential consequences of this point. The Animation Guild, I believe, should not partake in the investigation process, nor should they pass judgement based on their investigations. That sounds like the recipe for a kangaroo court. Sexual harassment is a serious crime, but unfortunately, it often boils down to a “he said, she said” kind of deal. The Animation Guild is not trained to investigate crimes. They do not have the resources to investigate to the extent that they can account for every possible scenario. Finally, since they are “the top” in their industry, having them be the end-all authority on such matters leaves them with no accountability. They have the power to end careers and block people from the industry (or make it very hard to find opportunities), so they need to be kept in check so that no corruption can seep in.

    As a solution, all cases of sexual harassment should be turned over to local law enforcement, no matter how seemingly “small” the case may be. If the matter is big enough to end someone’s career over, it’s big enough for the police. Law enforcement is bound by law to strict procedures. They are required to locate evidence so that the truth may be ascertained. Their decisions can be appealed if people feel that they did not do the case justice. In short, they are the best possible resource.

    I’m not saying this system is perfect. Many sexual harassment cases go unresolved for lack of proof. However, it is the least imperfect system we have. If we are going to be serious about justice, then we need to give it the best possible chance.

    • provost

      Many animation workers are bound by contracts and NDA’s and anti-arbitration clauses that can prevent a court investigation. This is often enforced in HR and many victims don’t tend to go to the police as they have no desire to go through that process without any privacy whatsoever.

      Do not confuse criminal justice, and workplace arbitration.