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“We are tired of relying on whisper networks”: Women and GNC Animators Demand Concrete Changes to Stop Sexual Harassment

As the Harvey Weinstein allegations continue to reverberate in the entertainment industry, more than 200 women and gender non-conforming animators sent an open letter to the animation community at-large, in which they laid out their demands to address sexual harassment and assault in the industry. They ask for “clear and enforceable” sexual harassment policies at every studio, an update to the Animation Guild constitution which would allow the Guild to “censure, fine, suspend or expel” members, and a cultural change that “male colleagues start speaking up and standing up for us.”

“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,” the letter reads. “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.”

As many commentators have pointed out, it’s important and often healing for women to share their stories and name their abusers. But it’s just as important for us to respond to those stories with concrete, system-wide changes which make it far more difficult for harassers to get away with their behavior. This letter calls for exactly that sort of change – so let’s hope the studios respond. Bento Box, Cartoon Network, Disney, DreamWorks Animation, Nickelodeon, OddBot, Paramount, Shadowmachine, Sony Pictures Animation, Stoopid Buddy, Titmouse, and Warner Brothers were all sent the letter.

The signatories of the letter include animators from dozens of shows, including Adventure Time and Bojack Horseman, as well as big-name creators like Steven Universe creator Rebecca Sugar, Danger & Eggs creator Shadi Petosky, Bob’s Burgers producer/writer Wendy Molyneux, and My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic creator Lauren Faust.

Below is the full text of the letter. You can see the full list of signatories at Deadline.

— — —

“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.”

(Via Buzzfeed News and Deadline; image via Cartoon Network)

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