Women in Animation. Story 2.

It looks, we really like job division and dividing responsibilities. I cook, you do dishes. You hunt, I gather. You on top, me on the bottom.
Apparently, in animation industry, more or less a corporate world, there are many more women producers than directors.
– But why!? – I shout every time I come across this bit of information.
One explanation came from a woman:
– Women make really good producers. They are very organized, they multitask well and they treat artists with respect and consideration.
The other explanation came from a man:
– There are some professions like that. For example, there are more female nurses than male nurses. And so, there are more women producers than men. Women just like to nurture.
Women like to nurture because they are brought up to believe that they like to nurture.
And men are brought up to nurse their fragile ego which is directly linked to the size of their reproductive organ and their last name which they are supposed to give to their female spouse and their male and female offspring. Obviously, no man can ever be sure that the children his spouse claims are his actually carry his genes, so the only way to ensure that at least something of his continues into the future is to give the children his last name.
Which brings us to the question why there are many more men directors than women. The answer to this question might lie in the link between a name and ego.
While producers do get some credit, it is a director who gets all the glory. His/her name is carried on a bright waving flag right after the title of the show or film.
Yes, creating something out of nothing is a frightening, risky, uncertain enterprise. It is much easier to produce something that has been already created. The person who successfully manages the difficult task of bringing images and ideas from his/her brain into reality definitely has to have good reasons to do so in order to persist.
Since there are less and less women in the contemporary world willing to take their husband’s last name (or even to marry) maybe male instinct to pass his genes to future generations transfers to desire to create a TV show, a feature film, an animated short under his name ?
Like a male dog who wakes up every morning and diligently makes the rounds marking every corner, every tree, every garbage bag on the territory he thinks is his. Dogs don’t have last names so they use their highly personalized piss.
How does it work for women in independent animation, then?
I don’t know the reasons why other women independent animators make their films. I just know about me.
I was a published writer since I was 14, so when the first man I married offered me his last name I pointed out that the name change would create a confusion for my readers. Secretly I felt highly protective of my last name because it was an important part of my identity – it was Latvian (a German name with a Latvian grammar adjustment denotes complicated history of Latvia and my family), it was female (in Latvian grammar “e” or “a” at the end of a name indicates female) and I had carried it through the sufferings of Soviet school system where your last name was used to humiliate, degrade, diminish and otherwise make you stronger.
My second husband realized the importance of my last name but he wanted to add his name to mine through a hyphen, which I agreed to (agreeing is the best female strategy at starting to avoid something) but the name adjustment was delayed due to some other urgencies, and by the time we got around to it we were already divorced.
So, every morning I wake up at 6 AM and start to work towards the glory of my own name.
Individualistic, narcissistic, selfish, a very un-nurturing female I am – an independent animator, writer, director, producer of my films.
Atypical female dog pissing on every corner and tree she encounters.
Actually, it is not far from the truth – my name is in a quite a few film festival catalogues that are, strictly speaking, a form of a tree.

About rocksinmypocketsthemovie

I was born in Latvia, educated in Moscow, live in New York. I have made about 14 animated shorts so far.
This entry was posted in Women, Men and Animation and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Women in Animation. Story 2.

  1. Esn says:

    Signe, I was wondering if you have an opinion about why there seem to be more female directors in Soviet & East-European animation than in Western animation. Some of the most significant names are female, for example the Brumberg sisters, Inessa Kovalevskaya, Olga Khodatayeva, Roze Stiebra (of course), Ideya Garanina, Nina Shorina, Galina Barinova, Aida Zyablikova, Yelena Gavrilko … more recently, Vlasta Pospísilová (Fimfarum films), Maria Muat, Natalya Malgina. In American animation, it’s only men, seemingly with only a few recent exceptions such as Nina Paley, who came in from outside the established system.

    • I disagree that the only woman animator/director in USA is Nina Paley. Debra Solomon, Joanna Priestly, Karen Aqua, Candy Kugel, Janet Perlman, to name a few, all BIG names.
      But it is true, that animation seems more popular with women in Eastern Europe. I think I mentioned in another blog entry that it was because animation was considered as an applied art vs. conceptual high brow art that men artists prefer. Like knitting. Or tapestry.
      While in USA animation is more closely tied with the tradition of comic books which in the early days for some inexplicable reason was more accommodating to male tastes. The moment comic book subjects got girl friendly the women went into comic books with the same zest.
      But over all, I DO NOT KNOW.
      It is all wild guesses, with no scientific data. Bet lets have fun while guessing!!

  2. maantas says:

    hello very angry female 🙂 i like reading your blog (this part is with no humor intended).
    1. its fun,
    2. its with attitude,
    3. it talks about hidden side of animation world. (mostly ugly bits, but written in quite entertaining way)
    and i will have to learn to “piss on trees” from you 🙂
    good luck, (with financing mostly:) – we are reading you.

  3. Phil Willis says:


    I always love your blog posts. Very personal and very opinionated.

    I went through a similar thing when I married my wife 14 years ago and she wanted to keep her surname. She was (still is) a journalist and she felt strongly about keeping her name, her brand and her reputation.

    To be honest – we fought about it. But she convinced me it was the right thing to do.

    Although it caused a stir from my conservative family, now that I look back on it – I’m glad she kept her name. It belongs to her and no-one can take that away from her.

    All the best with your upcoming projects.

  4. paolo says:

    Hallo, I like your blog, too.
    After having read your post and the comments, i was thinking that actually there were more women directors with respect to men in animation than in live action cinema. Then I realized that in live action we look at features whereas in animation we look mainly at shorts and I began to think of how many women have ever directed an animated feature film. The only names that came to my mind were Lotte Reininger (Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmeds) and Nina Paley (Sita Sings the Blues) as regards finished films, and your project and Balbina Bruszewska’s project on Chopin. Well, 2 finished features and 2 projects in almost 100 years are not very much… So, let’s come to another question: why so few women direct feature films?

    • Thank you for reading my blog! I completely agree with you that there are many women who make animated shorts, as a form of self-expression (as opposed to money making business). But there are more women than just Lotte and Nina that make feature animated films. Just recently, in USA – Tatia Rosenthal and Emily Hubley had great success with their feature animated films. If I scratch my head a bit longer, I’ll come up with few other names. But you’re right – NOT ENOUGH!!!
      Yesterday I finally got to see “The Social Network”. The film implied that Facebook was conceived and rendered only because a guy was rejected by a girl and he wanted to prove his worth to her. I hope, it was more complicated in reality, but this simplified notion that men aspire to get laid and do heroic works to achieve their goal reflects our stereotypes and expectations. Women are desired objects and men are individuals trying to get the prize. That’s why women dont make feature animated films – it is a heroic deed and there is no prize for us at the end – we all know a man is no prize.

      • paolo says:

        You are right, I forgot 9.99$ by Tatia Rosenthal (whom i met in Tallinn, by the way). I did not know about Emily Hubley, instead.

  5. Elliot Cowan says:

    My wife’s last name is Angelou which I like a lot more than my Cowan (which isn’t really our family name really – I’ll explain another time).
    Angelou has some good history behind it, too – it’s a Greek derivative of an Italian name.
    I hate everyday household traditions and would have been quite pleased to change my name to my wife’s family name but as I’m a resident and not a citizen it would have been complicated.

  6. Elliot Cowan says:

    He’s a Cowan.
    I was pushing for him to be an Angelou but Rebecca doesn’t have the aversion to tradition that I do.
    His full name is Hugo Freddie Cowan which is a nice name in the end.

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