In the wake of the #MeToo movement, companies and businesses across the board have made concerted efforts to address the safety of their employees and to take punitive action against employees who have engaged in sexual misconduct and sexist practices. While the movement has yielded a multitude of positive results, such as the incarceration of convicted child molester and former USA Gymnastics coach Larry Nassar or Terry Crews speaking out on the often-ignored issue of male sexual assault, it has also been unfairly directed against innocent targets, such as comedian Aziz Ansari and legendary comic creator Stan Lee. In the animation industry, the fear of sexual harassment and sexism has recently led to the promotion of two submission-based lists of ‘bad actors’, one professionally supported and the other an anonymous database requiring no evidence.
In a February newsletter issued to members, The Animation Guild (IATSE Local 839) announced the creation of the Gender Equity Task Force, which “was formed in order to take a closer look at issues of inequity within animation as it relates to gender.” The newsletter promotes a survey being conducted by the Gender Equity Task Force, titled “Gender Equity in Animation Study”, which lists its aim as:
Just 27% of The Animation Guild’s membership are women. Compared to roughly 60% of animation students graduating from schools like CalArts, this is a huge discrepancy. So why are there so many women in animation programs at the college level, and comparatively so few working in the industry? A few of us have assembled a team and have tasked ourselves with the job of gathering data on the subject.
We hope to build a comprehensive survey we can distribute to get hard numbers on gender inequality in the animation industry. This survey will hopefully help shed light on hiring practices, payroll imbalances across gender lines, as well as other categories to help us build a better picture of what could be happening in our industry to cause women to become such a minority once they leave academia.
The Task Force then goes on to describe hypothetical situations which would qualify as harassment or discrimination based on gender.
Part of the bigger picture we’d like to build includes the personal experiences of anyone who has felt discriminated against based on their gender. Maybe you’ve witnessed a member of the opposite sex with less experience be promoted ahead of you, or discovered you make less than peers of a different gender doing the same job, or maybe you’ve been told your work is too “feminine”. Maybe you left the industry for some reason, maybe you never quite got your foot in the door — any story you’re comfortable sharing, from the small irritations to more overt sexism. Maybe you haven’t felt your gender has made any difference at all! We want to hear those stories, too. We wanted to ask anyone who might be interested in sharing their own experiences with us to submit their stories here, along with whatever level of anonymity or visibility participants are willing to grant. It is our hope that with stories that resonate with people, and hard data to back it up, we can bring some awareness to the problems that are preventing women from pursuing or excelling in this industry.
The Task Force survey features six mandatory questions: name, e-mail address, your story, whether the incident occurred in California, where the incident took place if outside of California, and permission to share the first name, last name, and/or story of the respondent.
According to an industry insider, the Guild has previously indicated that they would be firing male employees to achieve a 50/50 male-to-female ratio as championed by the Women in Animation group. It is unknown what the Gender Equity Task Force intends to do with the results, or if they will be used in an effort to advance these alleged goals.
In early January, an anonymous submission-based database of individuals, mostly male, was created following the accusations of sexual impropriety lobbied at prolific voice actor Vic Mignogna. The publicly available database catalogs reports of sexual misconduct and harassment concerning members of various animation communities. Unlike the ‘Gender Equity in Animation Study’, Fix the Broken Staircase is not run by an official organization, but rather by an anonymous individual who refers to themselves only as ‘the moderator.’ The name is an allusion to a phrase coined by Cliff Pervocracy in 2012, ‘The Missing Stair’, which refers to members of a group actively turning a blind eye to a problematic person or situation, the proverbial missing stair in a staircase, rather than actively taking measures to solve the problem. The database currently features individuals ranging from prominent voice actors, to regular convention attendees, to cosplayers and photographers.
The Broken Staircase survey is similar to the Gender Equity in Animation Study survey, but requires a few more answers than it’s professional counterpart: one must submit their e-mail address, the name of the alleged predator’, any aliases the alleged predator uses, their role in the community (such as convention staff or cosplayer), the respondent’s home state, a list of conventions the alleged predator attends, and the story of the alleged misconduct. These fields are required, but there are two voluntary fields at the end of the survey: links to evidence and any references the respondent may have concerning the misconduct.
The most troubling aspect of the Broken Staircase is the fact that the database requires no qualifying criteria: individuals can submit an anonymous story, without evidence, and have the accused name’s added to list of offenders simply by filling out the provided survey form. According to the site’s own FAQ section:
Do I have to send you receipts/screencaps?
Nope! But I would ask that you consider going public with documentation, either written accounts or screencaps, and it’s not just because it makes you “seem believable”. It’s because predators use the same strategies over and over, and it’s incredibly clarifying for survivors to recognize the patterns with which they were victimized.
While the site does offer an option for individuals on the list to have themselves removed, it requires them to submit a form to the anonymous site runner to plead their case:
What do I have to do to get my name off the list?
My human role in this is to standardize the language of reports and flag entries based on quantitative data. The disclaimer at the top of the sheet states that information in these reports is to be taken as a caution only so people can protect themselves, and should not be used for any kind of retaliation.
If you’ve been libellously mispresented [sp] by a malicious party, please contact through the form.
The list currently includes 80 people. Dragon Ball Super: Broly voice actor Vic Mignogna has been added to the list as well as Fairy Tail voice actor Todd Haberkorn.
The fact that Broken Staircase features an anonymous individual in charge of accepting reports and populating a public spreadsheet of bad actors which has no burden of proof requirement, poses a serious threat to the industry and its communities.Though the site claims that the database is not to be used maliciously, the database has the potential to be easily weaponized to discredit targets, as one could simply add any individual’s name with a false report or use the list as a defacto blacklist. If one can be judged and punished without being given an opportunity to defend themselves, it is not hard to imagine that many potential creators may begin to turn away from the industry as a whole.
It is currently unknown what effect, if any, either of these surveys have had or will have on the current state of the industry.