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.
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.