Transgender Netflix employees and co-workers will stage a walkout next week protesting the streaming giant’s decision to release Dave Chappelle’s latest comedy special, multiple Netflix staffers have confirmed to the Los Angeles Times.
On Oct. 20, members of the Netflix employee resource group Trans* and their allies will take a “day of rest” prompted by their concerns about Chappelle’s “The Closer,” which includes several transphobic remarks.
“I encourage all [members of] Trans* and allies not to work for Netflix that day. … As we’ve discussed through Slack, email, texts and everything in between, our leadership has shown us that they do not uphold the values for which we are held,” a Netflix employee posted Monday in a public, company Slack channel comprising more than 800 staffers representing “gender minorities of all sorts and their allies,” in a message reviewed by The Times.
“Between the numerous emails and non-answers that have been given, we have been told explicitly that we somehow cannot understand the nuance of certain content. I don’t know about you, but asking for us to show the whole story and not just the pieces that harm trans and [LGBTQ+] people is not an unreasonable ask,” the employee’s Slack statement continued.
“So, I encourage us all to state clearly that we, as Netflix employees are stunning not simply when we are doing the work that our roles demand of us but also when we challenge the very principles of our company.”
Another Netflix employee, who like others interviewed for this story asked not to be named for fear of reprisal, told The Times that the demonstration will follow a virtual event on Oct. 19 that will be open to all staffers and discuss the Chappelle special’s impact on the trans community.
Netflix did not immediately respond Wednesday to The Times’ request for comment.
According to another Netflix staffer, the walkout is meant to pressure the streaming giant to acknowledge the harm caused by Chappelle’s special.
Among many derogatory remarks about the trans community, the comedian said he supported “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling, who has been labeled a trans-exclusionary radical feminist (TERF) for repeatedly expressing anti-trans sentiments.
Organizers of the protest are also demanding that Netflix commit to releasing more LGBTQ+ content on the platform. They are not expecting the company to remove the special, especially after Netflix co-Chief Executive Ted Sarandos announced that the streamer would keep it despite mounting criticism.
News of the walkout comes shortly after Netflix suspended three employees, allegedly for attending a quarterly business review, or QBR meeting, that they were not invited to, during which directors and vice presidents at the company discussed the fallout from the Chappelle special.
One of those staffers, senior software engineer Terra Field, has since been reinstated following a probe into her activities.
“Netflix has reinstated me after finding that there was no ill-intent in my attending the QBR meeting,” Field tweeted Tuesday. “I’m going to take a few days off to decompress and try to figure out where I’m at. At the very least, I feel vindicated.”
Field also shared a screenshot of an email documenting the results of the investigation, which found that Field “genuinely didn’t think there was anything wrong with seeking access to this meeting,” and that a director at Netflix shared a link to the virtual gathering with Field, which “further supported that this was a meeting [Field] could attend.”
Before her suspension, Field publicly condemned “The Closer” in a viral Twitter thread listing the names of trans people who were “not offended” by Chappelle’s comments — because they died in transphobic attacks before “The Closer” was released.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, at least 38 transgender or gender-nonconforming people have been killed so far in 2021. Historically, Black and Latinx women have been attacked at higher rates than other trans individuals.
“Promoting [trans-exclusionary radical feminist] ideology (which is what we did by giving it a platform yesterday) directly harms trans people, it is not some neutral act,” Field tweeted last week.
“This is not an argument with two sides. It is an argument with trans people who want to be alive and people who don’t want us to be,” Field added. “This all gets brushed off as offense though — because if we’re just ‘too sensitive’ then it is easy to ignore us.”
In a Monday statement to The Times, a Netflix spokesperson insisted it “is absolutely untrue to say that we have suspended any employees for tweeting about this show.”
“Our employees are encouraged to disagree openly and we support their right to do so,” the spokesperson said.
Around the time Field and her co-workers were suspended, reports surfaced of an internal memo from Sarandos that defended Netflix’s long-standing collaboration with Chappelle and refused to scrub “The Closer” from the platform.
“Several of you have … asked where we draw the line on hate. We don’t allow titles on Netflix that are designed to incite hate or violence, and we don’t believe The Closer crosses that line,” Sarandos wrote in an excerpt of the memo obtained by the Verge.
“I recognize, however, that distinguishing between commentary and harm is hard, especially with stand-up comedy which exists to push boundaries. Some people find the art of stand-up to be mean spirited but our members enjoy it, and it’s an important part of our content offering.”