In 1941 Disney animators protested Walt Disney Studios. They started the protest because it was impossible to live with the hours and pay Walt was offering. It wasn’t sustainable for their mental wellbeing or to support their families. The protests lasted nine weeks until Roy Disney had to give in because he was compelled by federal mediators, the boycotts, and his Bank of America Financier (Sito). He was forced to recognize the guild. After the guild was established everyone went back to work and money was doubled and the animators actually got screen credits. It is hard to believe there was a time where animators weren’t credited in the films they helped create (Sito).
The Screen Cartoonists guild made one of the largest impacts on the Hollywood animation scene. They helped pave the way for animators to earn a pension, medical insurance, and a higher standard of living (Sito). So, this must mean that, since the guild is in place, everything is fixed, correct? We all know this is false, the one thing they forgot about was women or gender non-conforming people and sexual harassment in the workplace.
After the #metoo movement, a lot of people’s eyes have been opened about the way Hollywood has been treating women. After the Harvey Weinstein scandal, many women in animation also stepped forward and have started talking about what has happened throughout their time in the animation field. The world has woken up to the fact that sexual harassment in every workplace is actually a thing, even in animation (wow shocker). Especially since the John Lasseter scandal, and especially since he has been fired from Disney and Pixar altogether. Since then, more and more people have spoken up and accused people who have sexually assaulted them, like the creator of The Ren & Stimpy Show was accused of systematic sexual harassment, exploitation, and abuse of teenage girls over the entirety of his animation career (The dot and line). Also, Chris Savin who was the showrunner of The Loud House was fired a year ago because of allegations of sexual wrongdoing and threats of retribution (The dot and line).
More and more women are speaking up about sexual abuse in the workplace, which, even though it is difficult, they are making a difference by speaking about it. Studies show that one in three women experience sexual harassment in the workplace (Vagianos). That’s an insane amount of women who have gone through something like this. And sadly studies also show about only 29% of women actually report the harassment, and only 15% feel like they have been treated fairly (Vagianos). Those are staggering numbers. Which is why speaking up and giving a voice to other women is a brave and amazing thing to do and it can help create change. But speaking up can be hard especially from the fear of if you speak up you might be blacklisted. A woman who worked on Kick Buttowski: Suburban Daredevil in 2012 gave an account, at a Women in Animation panel, of what happened to her when she was sexually harassed, “she initially confided in a manager, who discouraged her from reporting the harassment to human resources. The Animation Guild former business agent offered no help, saying, “At least you have a job.” Once she finally met with human resources and sought assurances that she would not be blacklisted or fired for pursuing a complaint, she was told: “I can’t guarantee your job”” ( Chmielewski).
Since this woman was a single mom, and she needed to support her family, she really didn’t have a choice so she kept quiet. But she finally spoke out in 2017 and identified the man who sexually harassed her as Chris Savin, the now ex-creator of loud house ( Chmielewski). Times are changing, and women are a bit more comfortable speaking out especially after the #metoo movement ( even though they shouldn’t have to because knowing that you shouldn’t sexually harass people should be common sense). Such as the 200 female animators, who have spoken out and have written a letter to Hollywood executives insisting on an end to sexual harassment in the animation industry (Kew). This letter makes many demands to improve the workplace for women, including improving sexual harassment policies by amending the Animation Guild constitution to make sure that if someone is guilty of sexual assault they are properly punished for it (Kew). The letter also asked that men in the workplace start speaking up for the women around them if they are seeing them being harassed. Chris DeFaria, the CEO of Dreamworks, and Margie Cohn, head of Dreamworks TV, responded to the letter by reestablishing their policies on sexual misconduct in the workplace (Kew). This letter and people speaking out are taking amazing steps and making many opportunities for women in the animation industry to change the way men treat women in the office.
Change only happens when we band together and speak out. Just like the 1941 protests, the animators protesting knew that if they all didn’t band together and speak out as a whole union, change wouldn’t come if only a few of them stood together, If that happened the people who protested would run out of money would have to come crawling back to their old jobs, back to the old unfair intolerable status quo. But those protestors banded together and the majority supported the cause which caused a change in the industry. History does repeat itself, If we speak up about the sexual harassment in our field, band together and make sure this industry knows that their workforce won’t stand for this, then there is nothing we can’t achieve. I am attaching the note that those 200 women sent and signed, as well as a link to Women in Animation sexual assault resources. If you have been sexually harassed or assaulted you are not alone.
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 adds 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
Chmielewski, Dawn C. “One Female Animator’s Emotional Story Punctuates Harassment Panel.” Deadline, 7 Dec. 2017, deadline.com/2017/12/women-in-animation-sexual-harassment-1202221766/.
Kew, Ben. “200 Female Animators Write Letter to Top Hollywood Executives Demanding End to ‘Widespread’ Sexual Harassment.” Breitbart, 21 Oct. 2017, www.breitbart.com/entertainment/2017/10/21/200-female-animators-write-letter-top-hollywood-executives-demanding-end-widespread-sexual-harassment/.
Sito, Tom. “The Disney Strike of 1941: How It Changed Animation & Comics.” Animation World Network, 19 July 2005, www.awn.com/animationworld/disney-strike-1941-how-it-changed-animation-comics.
The Dot and Line. “#MeToo Comes to Cartoons – The Dot and Line.” The Dot and Line, The Dot and Line, 30 Mar. 2018, dotandline.net/john-kricfalusi-sexual-abuse-ab30b6f53b6e.
Vagianos, Alanna. “1 In 3 Women Has Been Sexually Harassed At Work.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 7 Dec. 2017, www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/19/1-in-3-women-sexually-harassed-work-cosmopolitan_n_6713814.html.