Dear Friends of WIA,
It has been a tumultuous couple of weeks since the The New York Times story about Harvey Weinstein broke. Of course these kinds of stories have been surfacing about industries across the board for the past few years, and more reports are flooding in now that the dam has broken and people are speaking up. But the Weinstein story hits close to home for many of us.
Celebrities, CEOs, guilds, studios, women, men … everyone is appalled. We all recognize that this is the tip of the iceberg. Mistreatment and harassment seem to go hand in hand with power and money.
We are overturning a cornerstone of society in bringing such incidents to light — the victimization of the less powerful, or rather, the seemingly less powerful. As more women and men find their voices to speak up and reveal the ugly truths of abuse, we have a chance to change what has become too familiar a practice. Everyone senses the amassing power of people, especially women, who are refusing to be subjected to bullying and violation any longer.
But like any big transition in life, this change is extremely painful. For many of us, we are reliving past awful experiences, ones we worked hard to put behind us in order to “get on with our lives.” For some of us, the scope of the cruel and heinous acts is so surprising and overwhelming that we find ourselves in disbelief or disheartened. Yet for others, there can be feelings of guilt and remorse, not necessarily for something that we did but for what we did not do.
There are centuries of rage erupting around us, and it’s not going to stop until real change has happened. This pain runs deeply and will wreak havoc for a long time to come. We’ll learn that people we care about have been victims or perpetrators. We may need to talk about things that are deeply shameful for us. It is a swirling force of emotions that we will be spinning in for a while.
BE THOUGHTFUL AND PROTECT YOURSELF. Take some time to do an internal check to see how all of this is impacting you. Talk with people who you trust can help. Figure out what you think and how you need to be supported. And then seek out that support. This applies to everyone — not just women and not just people who have experienced sexual harassment. We are upsetting a foundational piece of our culture. It’s not going to be easy, and there will be casualties: careers and reputations will be hurt or ruined; companies we love (or hate) will go away; and institutions that employ us may lose business. A lot of shit is hitting the fan in Hollywood, and it’s just a matter of time before it hits Animation. Prepare by strengthening your support network. Spend time with your friends talking about what’s going on and how we can help each other.
IF YOU ARE EXPERIENCING SEXUAL HARASSMENT AT WORK: Know that you are protected by federal laws. Everyone has a right to be safe from harassment and discrimination in the workplace. There are protections from and consequences for the perpetrators, but you have to speak up. And, yes, there absolutely are risks in speaking up, but more and more companies have established policies and procedures to protect employees. You can speak with your HR representative or your supervisor because both are legally obligated to do a full investigation and to stop the harassment. There are also laws against retaliation: it is illegal to punish you in any way for bringing abuse to light. If you don’t feel safe enough to talk to these people, at least talk to a co-worker who then can support you in getting the help you need. Suffering in silence is never a good option.
As a volunteer organization, WIA has limited resources but wants to help by taking action in the following ways:
- We are preparing a new page on our website that directs you to resources if you are a target or need other information: womeninanimation.org/sexualharassment
- We are bringing together a panel of experts to discuss the issues and what recourse an employee has in difficult situations.
- We are developing a survey to get a more accurate picture of how big of a problem harassment is in our industry.
- We will share the results of the survey with heads of studios, reminding them of their responsibilities to protect all of their employees and to ensure the workplace is safe and free from harassment and discrimination.
Beyond serving as a source of information, we will advocate for a safe work environment and do the best we can to get you the support that you need to protect yourself or deal with the effects of abuse. Many of us, personally, are available to help in other ways.
Again, we are heading toward some intense turbulence. Be sure your seat belt is fastened and you know where the emergency exits are. We will land this plane for sure and then we’ll be in a new place. But you need to hang on.
Women in Animation