Pixar – Open Sexism Ruined My Dream Job
“When I started at Pixar as an intern, I thought I’d landed my dream job. But my excitement was quickly tempered by a flood of warnings about Lasseter’s touchy-feely” – Photo source: Variety/Via Cassandra Smolic.
Open sexism at Pixar is described in this touching guest column by Cassandra Smolcic for the well known entertainment industry news magazine Variety. An excerpt follows:
“After years of exploiting his position of power at Pixar and Disney, pressure from the Me Too movement recently ousted John Lasseter from his post as chief creative officer. But Pixar has yet to address how John’s sexist attitudes permeated its culture for decades, giving men license to mistreat women and sideline their careers.
“I was a graphic designer at Pixar during the second half of my 20s. I know people are saying that the climate there wasn’t “that bad.” I’m here to tell you that it was, and more than likely still is.
“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.
“When I started at Pixar as an intern, I thought I’d landed my dream job. But my excitement was quickly tempered by a flood of warnings about Lasseter’s touchy-feely, boundary-crossing tendencies with female employees. It was devastating to learn, right from the start, that women were open targets for disrespect and harassment –– even at a world-renowned workplace in the most liberal-leaning city in the country. I was likewise told to steer clear of a particularly chauvinistic male lead in my department. Much like John, this man’s female targets had been reporting his vulgar, unprofessional behaviors for years, but his position and demeanor remained much the same.
“I had my first uncomfortable encounter with this department head in a company kitchen, just two weeks into my internship. He cornered me with sexual comments while openly leering at my body. Over the next five years, I white-knuckled my way through many unwelcome, objectifying interactions with him, with Lasseter, and with other men; was physically groped by another male coworker; and was sidelined from projects by the unofficial boys’ club casting system.
“Just after starting on “Cars 2,” I was told by a superior that I would be uninvited from all our weekly art department meetings because Lasseter “has a hard time controlling himself” around young women. I was crushed to have my participation in the filmmaking process –– and subsequently my career trajectory –– thwarted simply because I was female. It was clear that the institution was working hard to protect him, at the expense of women like me.
“But Lasseter didn’t need an intimate setting to make female employees uncomfortable. He would give me, and countless other women, lecherous up-and-down looks (or unwanted hugs and touches) almost every time we crossed his path on campus. These tactless encounters made it clear that we were sex objects to him. The entire Pixar workforce witnessed the sleazy spin that John brought to Pixar’s Halloween bash. If he found a woman attractive when she got on stage, he’d ask her to spin around while he made suggestive comments, turning the event into yet another lewd spectacle.
“Lasseter set the bar shamefully low for the overall treatment of women in his empire, which also signals troubling themes in the films he’s directed, produced, and overseen throughout the years. These projects, which reach millions of children and adults worldwide, have consistently failed to give women equal voice on screen and behind the scenes.
“The decision to replace Lasseter with Jennifer Lee at Disney and Pete Docter at Pixar provides hope for meaningful change moving forward. But dismantling John’s legacy will take more than just replacing a single executive, because 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.”