Open Letter: Animation Workers Demand Changes in Harassment Response

Steven Universe, created by Rebecca Sugar, one of the letter's 200+ signatories.
Steven Universe, created by Rebecca Sugar, one of the letter's 200+ signatories.

***Content warning: This post mentions sexual harassment

In the wake of The New York Times story on Harvey Weinstein and, in our own industry, the allegations against Chris Savino, who has subsequently been fired, animators are speaking up about the pervasiveness and seriousness of sexual harassment and what can be done to stop it. Women in Animation Co-President Marge Dean penned a letter to the WIA community reflecting on this most recent high profile scandal, the emotional burden that so many survivors shoulder, and how WIA is taking proactive steps to change the industry for the better.

Now, an open letter signed by 217 women and non-gender conforming persons working in animation has been sent to more than a dozen studios — including Bento Box, Cartoon Network, Disney, DreamWorks, Sony Pictures Animation, Stoopid Buddy, Titmouse and Warner Bros. — demanding meaningful action to change workplace culture and policies regarding sexual harassment allegations and disciplinary response.

The signers come from many different disciplines within the industry, and include writer-producer Wendy Molyneux (Bob’s Burgers), Steven Universe creator Rebecca Sugar and writer-producer Lauren Faust (My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic).

If you have experienced sexual harassment or violence and need support, RAINN offers a 24/7 hotline or chat and many resources.

The letter in full:

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,

Abigail Davies

Ae Ri Yoon

Alejandra Quintas

Alex Mack

Alice Herring

Aliki Theofilopoulos

Allie Splain

Allison Kim

Allison Perry

Alyx Jolivet

Amalia Levari

Amanda Li

Amanda Turnage

Amber Vucinich

Amelia Lorenz

Aminder Dhaliwal

Angela Li

Angelina Ricardo

Anna Hollingsworth

Anna O’Brian

Anne Walker Farrell

Annisa Adjani

Arlyne Ramirez

Ashley Fisher

Ashley King

Ashlyn Anstee

Audrey Diehl

Aurry Tan

Becky Lau

Bethany Lo

Bri Neumann

Brianne Drouhard

Bridget Ore

Brittany Rochford

Cameron Butler

Careen Ingle

Carly SIlverman

Caroline Director

Caroline Foley

Carrie Liao

Casey Follen

Catharina Sukiman

Chelsea McAlarney

Cheyenne Curtis

Chivaun Fitzpatrick

Christina Faulkner

Christine Liu

Citlalli Anderson

Clio Chiang

Daniaelle Simonsen

Danielle Bonadona

Danny Ducker

Diana Huh

Diana Kidlaied

Diem Doan

Elaine Wu

Elisa Phillips

Elise Fachon

Elise Willis

Elizabeth (Betsy) Bauer

Elizabeth Ito

Elizabeth McMahill

Emily Brundige

Emily Rice

Emily Walus

Emily Quinn

Erin Kavanagh

Eunsoo Jeong

Evon Freeman

Faryn Pearl

Ginny Hawes

Gizelle Orbino

Grace Babineau

Grace Mi

grace young

Haley Mancini

Hannah Ayoubi

Heather Gregersen

Hilary Florido

Hillary Bradfield

Hsuan Ho

Ilana M Schwartz

Jackie Bae

Jacqueline Sheng

Jean Kang

Jen Bardekoff

Jen Bennett

Jenn Ely

Jenn Strickland

Jenna Boyd

Jenny Cho

Jess Marfisi

Jessica Gao

Jessica von Medicus

Jessie Greenberg

Jessie Wong

Jihyun Park

Jill Sanford

Joanna Leitch

Jocelyn Sepulveda

Jordan Rosato

Julia Kaye

Julia Layton

Julia Pott

Julia Srednicki

Julia Vickerman

Julianne Martin

Kaitlyn Ritter

Kaitrin Snodgrass

Karen C. Johnson

Kassandra Heller

Kat Good

Katie Rice

Kayla Carlisle

Kelly Gollogly

Kellye Perdue

Kelsey Norden

Kendra Melton

Kennedy Tarrell

Kiki Manrique

Kiley Vorndran

Kim Le

Kim Roberson

Kimberly Knoll

Kristen Gish

Kristen Morrison

Kristin Koch

Lacey Dyer

Lamb Chamberlin

Laura Hohman

Laura Sreebny

Lauren Duda

Lauren Faust

Lauren Patterson

Leah Artwick

Lily Williams

Lindsay Carrozza

Lindsey Pollard

Lisa Hanawalt

Lissa Treiman

Liz Climo

Lorraine Grate

Lorraine Howard

Lucyola Langi

Lynn Wang

Maaike Scherff

Madeline Queripel

Maggie Kang

Maha Tabikh

Mallory Carlson

Maria Nguyen

Mariah-Rose Marie M

Mariana Chan

Mary Nash

Mayumi Nose

McKenna Harris

Megan Dong

Megan Lloyd

Megan Phonesavanh

Megan Waldow

Megan Willoughby

Melissa Juarez

Melissa King

Melissa Levengood

Michelle Lin

Michelle Thies

Miho Tomimasu

Mingjue Chen

Minty Lewis

Mollie Freilich

Monica Davila

Monica DeStefano

Naomi Hicks

Natasha Kline

Nicole Rivera

Niki Lopez

Nooree Kim

Nora Meek

Patricia Burgos

Phylicia Fuentes

Rebecca Sugar

Rebecca Wallace

Reem S. Ali-adeeb

Rianna Liu

Rikke Asbjoern

Sabrina Cotugno

Sabine Doerstling

Sam King

Samantha Gray

Sarah Johnson

Sarah Marino

Sarah Oleksyk

Sarah Soh

Sarah Visel

Sasha Schotzko-Harris

Shadi Petosky

Sheri Wheeler

Sofia Alexander

Sona Sargsyan

Stacy Renfroe

Stephanie Gonzaga

Stephanie Simpson

Stephanie Stine

Su Moon

Sue Schaller

Sydney Sharp

Talia Ellis

Tara H.

Tara N Whitaker

Traci Honda

Tuna Bora

Valerie Schwarz

Victoria Harris

Wendy Molyneux

Yingjue Chen

Zabrina McIntyre

Zoe Miller

Steven Universe, created by Rebecca Sugar, one of the letter's 200+ signatories.

Steven Universe, created by Rebecca Sugar, one of the letter’s 200+ signatories.

  • James

    You should check into some of the canadian studios up in Vancouver. Not sure if sexual harassment is as prominent but there has been a lot of harassment in terms of work and being blacklisted. Bardel is one studio where this has been allowed for a long time. There’s people afraid to speak up about it but there has been the case of at least one person in charge of some of their animation productions being rude with their workers and firing them if they decide to speak up.

  • Tigercat919

    If there is a time for people to come forward with their stories of sexual harassment and other harmful activities then it is right now. The situation is very ugly and it looks like it is going to get even uglier…but the entertainment industry needs positive change right now.

    • James

      This is true. However up in Canada it’s a big no-no between studios. I know of people who have been threatened with blacklisting, and some that are still blacklisted to this day. I only brought up Bardel because some of the people on their more famous shows are guilty of this and HR has a habit of covering it up. One of my friends is scared to come forward since his harassment wasn’t sexual, but was workplace related. If there is somewhere to report it safely that would be great though. I really hope that more people come forward so that people take a look into the industry in canada, since we don’t even have unions and thus workers constantly face getting fired for no reason and without warning. There’s a production manager at the aforementioned studio that is known for doing this to people and getting away with it. Their HR has been notified before and complains have come in but nothing has been said to this individual.

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