There is no one size fits all solution for gender justice, and its challenges around the world vary as much as geography does. The panel discussion on Gender Justice at Annecy Film Festival 2022 featured voices from around the globe that expressed what women, non-binary, and transgender people face in the international animation industry and what gender equality looks like for them.
The session kick started with WIA and executive committee Julie Ann Crommett who shared a quote by Verna Myers on diversity, inclusion and belonging. She said, “Diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance, belonging is that your music is played in the party. But who’s hosting the party or who decides to invite whom are few questions that lead to think about gender injustice.”
The panel members included Mounia Aram Company founder and president Mounia Aram, Dancing Atoms Studios creator and director Saraswathi Vani Balgam, director, comic artist of Ojo Raro Paula Boffo and Baobob Studios CEO and co-founder Maureen Fan. The session was moderated by Les Femmes’ Animent founding member and co-VP Eleanor Coleman.
Aram explained how little girls in Morocco (Africa) are taught to be quiet and polite since childhood. Aram also mentioned her company’s goals which is to work with isolated women in Africa and Caribbean and to create beautiful animated stories to empower little girls to become superheroes.
Balgam recalled her time how at the age of 16, she was not encouraged to work on a film set due to prevalence of sexual exploitation in the industry. She believes that trends are changing and so are the mindset of people but still there are only few women from India who can confidently claim to be a creator or a filmmaker.
Boffo shared, “If the narrative is strong, the story is communicated effectively and builds emotional connection. Most of the stories that come from LGBTQ, transgender etc are put aside. We aim to create space for these communities so that they write their own stories and change the world.”
Fan shared her experience of working in male dominated organisations (Zynga as VP and further studied in Harvard Business School). She said, “We are living in a niceness paradox scenario where we are constantly trying to be nice and need to be respected at the same time.”
On being asked if the women feel that the ball is moving forward in the current scenario, Aram excitedly shared about her journey. All these years, in spite of people scaring her for not starting up her own company, she is now a successful entrepreneur having clients in different parts of the country like Jamaica, South Africa and Nigeria.
Balgam spoke about how she managed approx 800 artists while working at Rhythm & Hues and guided many women artists who are now at leading positions in different animation and VFX companies. She also mentioned initiating Women Creators Program Batch I in India and Batch II for SE Asian Women Creators that aim to inspire and empower more women to create a community of creators.
Boffo feels women nowadays don’t have a space to be mediocre or fail. She shared how her company had organised festivals for women publishers as they were not getting enough space at the common festivals pre-dominated by men.
Talking about justice and equality, Vani shared, “Justice is an expansion of ourselves – our creativity, connection, and emotions as we all want to expand ourselves not to feel tinier.”
Boffo added, “It’s a good thing to educate women because that’s how we know what biases are and how to stand for ourselves.”
Balgam shared how imposter syndrome ignites our insecurities and makes us feel vulnerable. She believes that It’s important to accept the insecurity in ourselves, work on it and move on in life ourselves.
The session concluded by sharing their ideas on transforming social norms where Boffo shared, “Transformation of social norms can happen by building communities and taking up spaces. It’s important to note that women don’t need any security and are heroes themselves. Women should become more ambitious and stick to their dreams and goals.”