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Sexual Harassment Panel Offers Definitions, Strategies

Women in Animation and The Animation Guild host sexual harassment panel with AAPF co-founder and professor of law Kimberlé Crenshaw, BetterBrave co-founder Tammy Cho, attorney Jason Oliver and clinical psychologist Dr. Anthony E. Reading.

Under a projected image of disgraced Hollywood studio mogul Harvey Weinstein, a panel of experts convened Wednesday night in Burbank at the IATSE Local 80 union building to define sexual harassment, explain people’s rights and responsibilities, and discuss strategies for how to create safer work environments for the animation industry.

Hosted by Women in Animation and The Animation Guild, Local 839, the event was moderated by Kimberlé Crenshaw, co-founder of AAPF and professor of law at UCLA and Columbia Law School. Panelists included Tammy Cho, co-founder of BetterBrave, a non-profit that provides resources and tools to combat harassment, discrimination and retaliation in the workplace; Jason Oliver, an attorney specializing in sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation cases; and clinical psychologist Dr. Anthony E. Reading, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA and an expert in civil litigation in the employment arena.

Noting the groundswell of support for women that has manifested in the wake of allegations against Weinstein and others throughout the entertainment industry and beyond, Crenshaw provided a brief history of harassment in the workplace as it has come to be understood today, beginning with Anita Hill’s accusations against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, in 1991, and leading up to the #MeToo movement conceived by activist Tarana Burke more than 10 years ago and recently popularized by actress Alyssa Milano.

The panelists agreed that there has been a fundamental change in way harassment is defined and perceived since the Clarence Thomas hearings, but acknowledged that while more protective legislation is in place the issue is far from settled. “The laws are now in place if you know what they are and how to access them,” Oliver said.

According to Cho, one in three women in the workplace experiences sexual harassment -- a huge number considering that women make up 46 percent of the workforce. She encouraged women who have been harassed, or others who have witnessed harassment, to find out what resources are available to them prior to making formal a complaint.

Change for the industry “must come from the top down,” according to Oliver, while Cho discussed the phenomenon of the MVP or “rock star” employee who is protected by management despite well-known patterns of misbehavior.Given the small and insular nature of the animation industry, the panelists urged caution, both in identifying harassment and in reporting it. “You need to be certain there are bullets in the gun, so to speak,” Oliver advised, noting that the legal standard demanded a pattern of “severe or pervasive” harassment and outlining best practices for documenting patterns of behavior. “Have a game plan if the bottom drops out,” he added.

The panelists also discussed strategies for creating safer work environments, including identifying harassing behaviors and confronting potential harassers. Dr. Reading emphasized the use of “I” messages over “you” statements when confronting harassers about their behavior, also observing that most harassers are unaware that their attentions are unwanted.

The bottom line? Know your rights, know your options, and find out what resources you have. Put everything in writing, including summaries of any verbal conversations held with management.

“It’s all about building a culture of respect,” Crenshaw said.

Jennifer Wolfe's picture

Formerly Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network, Jennifer Wolfe has worked in the Media & Entertainment industry as a writer and PR professional since 2003.

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