This is the most controversial post I have ever written in ten years of blogging. I wrote it because I was very angry at a specific incident. Not meant as a criticism of feminism, so much as of a certain way of operationalizing feminism. A few days ago, in response to a discussion of sexual harassment at MIT, Aaronson reluctantly opened up about his experience as a young man:
I started filling my school notebooks with doodles of Disney characters and quickly decided I wanted to work in animation when I grew up. Although my career goals were high reaching for a young woman from humble roots in Rust-Belt Pennsylvania, my core motivations were always pretty simple: I fiercely wanted to earn and maintain a sense of respect from others.
That if I worked hard enough to land a seat with an admired company in a thriving part of the country, life would become kinder and more edifying to me than it had in the past.
But regardless of how proficient at hoop jumping I became —— no matter how many degrees, awards, performance bonuses or film credits I racked up —— that gracious, gratifying and more dignified version of a better life always seemed to evade me.
And the disappointment of being so wrong about the world we live in cut so deep it nearly split my resolve in two. But the choice to share a thorough account of my most triggering experiences with gender discrimination, sexism, harassment and sexual abuse —— both before and during my time at Pixar —— was not one I made lightly.
I prefer to think of this article as a pro-equality manifesto instead of an anti-misogyny rant or an attack on Charisma psychology and enormous overwhelming presence essay. I have faith that my candid testimony —— as seen through an unapologetically female lens —— can serve as a cautionary tale, a symbolic case study and an emblematic catalyst.
I was a graphic designer at Pixar during the second half of my 20s. At Pixar, my female-ness was an undeniable impediment to my value, professional mobility and sense of security within the company. The stress of working amidst such a blatantly sexist atmosphere took its toll and was a major factor in forcing me out of the industry.
The decision to replace Lasseter with Jennifer Lee at Disney and Pete Docter at Pixar provides hope for meaningful change moving forward. Docter is known for being a gifted, inclusive filmmaker, and his gracious approach to leadership promises a vast improvement to the openly lecherous, boys club environment that Lasseter was paramount in cultivating.
A recent article published in The SF Chronicle implied that opportunities and the climate has been improving for at least three featured female Pixarians, which is great news especially if these sentiments are echoed by other women within the studio and the article represents more than just a crisis-controlling PR front.
Such deeply ingrained biases require deliberate, conscientious effort to identify and dismantle. Disney and Pixar must recognize that women and underrepresented minorities are just as capable, talented, complex and dimensional as the white fraternity of men who have monopolized animation thus far.
Female narratives are worthy of world-class storytellers, and women deserve to be treated as respected equals in any creative community.
During my tenure as a young female artist at Pixar, I felt overtly targeted, harassed or physically threatened by male coworkers about a handful of times. Each of these most piercing encounters with the unhinged masculine were painful, unsettling, and effectively caste a murky blue, reality-checking tint over my rosy-colored dream job.
But it was actually those moments combined with the forces of institutionalized enabling —— practices that safeguarded and propped up a whole gamut of sexist behaviors on a larger scale —— along with the consistent daily undertones of gender exclusion, that truly made me feel unwelcome and undervalued in a sea of seemingly thriving male coworkers.
Although other women appeared to navigate their way around the pitfalls of the male-dominated studio, I eventually came to the conclusion that my hopes of feeling equally venerated or fulfilled in my career path there were unlikely to come to fruition. To the average man —— or even a woman who has been less affected by gender-issues in her life —— it may be challenging to understand why non-violent forms of sexism and harassment are still in critical need of our attention.
Not every woman develops the dramatic cognitive changes seen in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSDbut many of us are considerably impacted both consciously and unconsciously by all-too-common subtle sexual traumas we experience in both childhood and adulthood. When these smaller acts of inappropriateness mount up in a given week, month, year or the length of a careerthey have a tendency to reverberate off one another.
While no two women respond to incidents of harassment, gender bias or exclusion the same, all women deserve to be treated with the same, upmost levels of dignity and respect.
Concept art from Inside Out. A social outcast during most of my childhood for being an awkward, ugly-duckling-type tomboy in a community that operated by strictly defined gender roles, my own unpleasant run-ins with the opposite sex started relatively young.
At 12, a boy I liked put his hand down my pants and tried to finger me on an amusement park ride. A common reaction for a confused child who was being molested, I froze, making my first sexual encounter a traumatic, non-consensual incident that would quickly come to haunt me.
Just moments after violating me, he walked over to a group of boys from our grade to brag about it, sentencing me to years of taunting and bullying from the adolescent-boy hive-mind at my middle school.
One summer night I happened upon an adult male relative at a family picnic while the rest of the party guests congregated down the hill at a faraway bonfire.
Stumbling and clearly intoxicated, he went in for a long hug but then refused to let me go. He proceeded to grope me in the dark yard until I was finally able to break free, but the incestuous sexual encounter would scar me for decades.
That same summer, I got drunk for my first time at a graduation party and naively followed a groups of older boys — who promised to show me a cool tree fort — into a nearby patch of woods.
From the patchy memories I have from that night, I can tell you that their intentions were shaping up to be far from pure. In line with the statistics, a good many of my first harassers and abusers were people I knew. But then there were also the perfect strangers.
In just a single year, a grown man living in the apartment across the street, who was literally twice my age 28 to my 14regularly hounded me when I came and went for the school bus; another man attempted to sexually assault me on an Amtrak train; and a boy one grade ahead of me in school who was later institutionalized for schizophrenia stalked me for months on end.
Facing this barrage of sexual aggression left me in state of continuous anxiety and fear, overwhelmed by threats that seemed to come from all sides.
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Also, “it starts to look like me and the feminists” should be “looks like I”.
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“The ‘old boy network’ refers to an informal system of friendships and connections through which men use their positions of influence by providing favors and information to help other men.
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