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Netflix Under Flak as Trans Employees and Allies Walkout

| Oct 20, 2021
Netflix Under Flak as Trans Employees and Allies Walkout 1

A lot needs to change as the rallying Netflix employees proceed to walkout.

It all began with the release of Dave Chappelle’s comedy special on Netflix, The Closer, that released on October 5. The response from audiences was mixed with some getting a laugh while others were attacked and subject to hate speech. A crucial trans Netflix software engineer — along with others like the Black trans employee resource group employee (ERG), Pagels-Minor — were suspended and fired in the past week over standing up for what they believed was an attack on them and the LGBTQ+ community. On Wednesday, October 20 at 10:30 AM PDT, many Netflix employees at the Netlfix headquarters in Los Angeles, are holding a walkout in solidarity to fight for change to Netflix’s defense of harmful content.

The blame is not primarily targeted at Chappelle, but at the response of co-CEO of Netflix, Ted Sarandos, who released a statement defending the comedian’s content saying the performance doesn’t “directly translate to real-world harm.” Sarandos told Deadline about how he messed up the internal email sent out in terms of how insensitive it was to his employees. A response on the questions of how Netflix draws the line of harm came up in the interview, to which, Sarandos responded, “That is why I work here, that content actually can make the world a better place through our storytelling, through onscreen representation and all those things. So, it was a gross simplification…” It was a ‘gross simplification’ indeed as more employees join today’s walkout.

Netflix Under Flak As Trans Employees And Allies Walkout  2
Netflix

Then, a list of demands came out from the trans ERG that stated, “We want the company to adopt measures in the areas of content investment, employee relations and safety, and harm reduction, all of which are necessary to avoid future instances of platforming transphobia and hate speech.” Essentially, the employees want the ERG to have a bigger role in internal conversations and affairs where there may be content that some may not think is harmful, but it actually is — especially with promoting content with transphobic content in it.

Below is the full letter from the Netflix employees who call for change:

“Over the past few weeks, it has become clear that there are many places where Netflix

still has to grow when it comes to content relating to the trans and non-binary

community. The Trans* Employee Resource Group, which includes trans and

non-binary colleagues as well as our numerous allies, wants Netflix to immediately take

the steps below to begin to repair the relationship between the Company, our

colleagues, and our audience. Specifically, we want the Company to adopt measures

in the areas of Content Investment, Employee Relations and Safety, and Harm

Reduction, all of which are necessary to avoid future instances of platforming

transphobia and hate speech, and to account for the harm we have caused and will

continue to cause until the below measures are put in place.

Content Investment

  • Create a new fund to specifically develop trans and non-binary talent

○ This fund should support both above-the-line (ATL) and below-the-line

(BTL) talent;

○ This fund should exist in addition to the existing Creative Equity Fund;

  • Increase investment in trans and non-binary content on Netflix comparable to

our total investment in transphobic content, including marketing and

promotion;

  • Invest in multiple trans creators to make both scripted and unscripted programs

across genres;

  • Revise internal processes on commissioning and releasing potential harmful

(“sensitive”) content, including but not limited to involving parties who are a

part of the subject community and can speak to potential harm, or consulting

with 3rd party experts/vendors;

  • Increase the ERG role in conversations around potentially harmful content and

ensure we have best in class regional support on complicated intersectional

diversity issues;

  • Hire trans and non-binary content executives, especially BIPOC, in leading

positions;

Employee Relations and Safety

  • Recruit trans people, especially BIPOC, for leadership roles in the company

(Director, VP, etc.) and promote an inclusive environment for them;

  • Allow employees to remove themselves from previous company promotional

content (e.g. allyship and diversity videos, etc.);

  • Eliminate references/imagery of transphobic titles or talent inside of the

workplace, including but not limited to murals, posters, room names, swag;

Harm Reduction

  • Acknowledge the harm and Netflix’s responsibility for this harm from

transphobic content, and in particular harm to the Black trans community;

  • Add a disclaimer before transphobic titles that specifically flag transphobic

language, misogyny, homophobia, hate speech, etc. as required;

  • Boost promotion for Disclosure and other trans-affirming titles in the platform;
  • Suggest trans-affirming content alongside and after content flagged as

anti-trans.

We are employees, but we are members, too. We believe that this Company can and

must do better in our quest to entertain the world, and that the way forward must

include more diverse voices in order to avoid causing more harm. The Trans* ERG

looks forward to working with the Company to make this a better, more entertaining

place for us all.

Sincerely-

Trans* Netflix”

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