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PERSPECTIVE

Breaking the cycle

By Lindsay Watson 27-10-2017

Sexual harassment in the workplace was the reason I set up Animated Women UK (AWUK) in 2013. And it’s the reason I will continue to comment on the topic, as there is such a great need for better resources and representation for women in the industry.

I, like many women, have been sexually harassed for as long as I can remember. And recent research has highlighted the sad fact that, in addition to harassment experienced in the playground, at school, in public, in university and beyond, more than 50% of women in the UK have been harassed in the workplace.

While forming a network of supportive friends and colleagues is helpful, providing resources for those who need to report and take action against this crime is also important to us:

• For full-time employees, I found this Huffington Post article on how to report sexual harassment quite useful.
This piece from Broadly is helpful for freelancers.
• For those traveling to/from work on public transport, there’s this from the Independent.
• For those studying, an educational resource from Universities UK.
• For HR/employers, another great article from the Independent.
• And for men, there’s this piece from the Guardian.

Online, hashtags have been used by many brave women. What next? I’d like to nominate some of the men I’ve met in my career for a ‘Boys Club’ award ceremony; perpetrators of harassment can be named and shamed, but what will stop them committing such acts in the future? Perhaps a ‘Boys Club 2.0,’ whereby men stand up to other men they’ve noticed in their industry by confronting their behaviour, thus taking the responsibility solely off of women’s shoulders. Petitions, protests – any other ideas?

Let’s not forget that misogyny can be committed by women or self-inflicted. Victim-blaming, secrecy and gossip about other women are all behaviours that come under the patriarchal veil of this behaviour.

However, to focus solely on this area would negate some of the powerful work AWUK has done over the past four-and-a-half years. I’d like to highlight that we represent more than1,250 newsletter subscribers – around 25% of all women working in animation and VFX in the UK. We have produced more than 34 events and have over 90 members, while we continue to plan for the next three to five years of growth and advertise dozens of job ads.

With the help of Louise Hussey and the rest of the AWUK board and volunteers, we have made huge inroads into raising the profiles of women in our industry, improving working networks, providing mentoring, showcasing women’s work and carrying out research.

A huge thanks goes out to Alison Warner, Jocelyn Stevenson, Kate O’Connor and Helen Brunsdon, without whose support from day one none of this would have been possible.

We continue to offer to work in collaboration with the BFI (see its new Diversity Standards here) and various other UK events, festivals and conferences to achieve our aims. Get in touch if you haven’t yet.

As Lisa Simpson once said: “Lord Buddha, I know I’m not supposed to want stuff, but come on!” Gender equality shouldn’t be a feminist utopian ideal; it’s a basic human right, but one that we as women are continually fighting to have recognised.

In order to create real change, things like positive discrimination policies, further research and start-up IP and business funding for women is essential. Governments must also find new ways to value women’s needs and contributions, and then take them seriously. Perhaps if a panel ends up being all male (a “manel”), one man can give up his place to a female expert he knows.

I couldn’t be prouder of what we’ve accomplished, though. Starting AWUK has been an epic task and one of the hardest things I’ve done. My personal policies have improved over the years: rather than striving for perfection in my work, I aim to be “good enough” (i.e. as good as any man) and to try not to judge other women too harshly. I started AWUK because I was angry, but I used my anger to fuel creative action and produce positive change.

It starts with trusting yourself. If you can do that, you can trust others. Then you can make decisions, and some of those decisions might even involve an element of risk!

That being said, I find it difficult to find the kind of work that is well paid, stable, encourages female characters/empowerment in animation and supports women’s day-to-day lives. I don’t want to end up another female statistic, having to leave the industry at 35 (unmarried, no kids) because I can’t find the work I want. I’m too afraid to ask for investment in my own projects, yet too ambitious to want to spend another 10 years ‘working my way up’ to a position where I get to choose projects. Do I need to forego stability in exchange for creative freedom? Time will tell.

Never before have women been so educated and connected: we are a global force to be reckoned with. Yet, as women in the public eye, we deal with so many external negative forces. Becoming such a woman remains unappealing for many; our fears, insecurities and self-doubts are encouraged instead. See Mary Beard’s The Public Voice of Women. This in turn creates circumstances ripe for in-fighting, bullying, separation and isolation, thus keeping us quiet.

True collaboration is about sharing power, decision-making, authority and responsibility. There is an unlimited supply of power for women who choose to create it. There’s a window for change to happen quickly and efficiently. How we react to that is up to us. There’s great stuff happening all around the world and hopefully the momentum will continue.

On that note, AWUK would not exist without thousands of hours of support from our advisors, board members and volunteers. If you would like to get involved, please contact us and become a member of AWUK.

This article first appeared on the AWUK website.

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today's correspondent

Lindsay Watson Founder Animated Women UK

Lindsay is a Canadian/British animation producer whose company CANUK Productions focuses on the development of IP and coproduction of animated children's series. She launched Animated Women UK in 2013 and works closely with its board to organise events and promote women in animation and VFX.

Lindsay continues to publish academic papers relating to girls' animation, regularly presenting information about the subject at international conferences and events. In 2015 she received a Master of Fine Art degree from Bournemouth University (Professional Media Practice – animation management) and published a paper on British animation funding in partnership with Animation UK.