Trans employees at Netflix are planning a company-wide walkout on October 20th, in response to both the release of Dave Chappelle’s recent stand-up special The Closer—in which Chappelle makes a number of homophobic and transphobic jokes and statements, including a loud assertion that he’s “Team TERF!” and several statements that trans women are not real women—and CEO Ted Sarandos’ response to criticism of the decision.
News of the walkout comes as news broke that software engineer Terra Field and two other employees had been un-suspended by the company. Field and the others had reportedly been disciplined by Netflix after attending a meeting that they hadn’t been explicitly invited to participate in, voicing their unhappiness with the decision to platform Chappelle’s work. In a screenshot of an email acknowledging the decision, Netflix management made it clear that it realized that Field had attended the meeting in good faith, assuming that there was an open path to presenting her views on the company’s practices.
As noted by The Verge, Sarandos’ efforts to smooth the Chappelle situation have largely served only to inflame the tensions between the company and its trans employees. The co-CEO issued an internal letter last week that stated bluntly that The Closer will be remaining on the company’s servers. It also asserted that, in Netflix’s eyes, the special didn’t cross the line into inciting hate, despite the links between rhetoric attacking trans people and actual physical violence.
Sarandos also noted—in what many readers have taken as a telling digression—that Chappelle’s previous special, Sticks And Stones, “is our most watched, stickiest and most award-winning stand-up to date.” Sarandos later issued a second memo, which carried with it a strong “love it or leave it, huh?” vibe:
Our hope is that you can be hugely inspired by entertaining the world, while also living with titles you strongly believe have no place on Netflix. This will not be the last title that causes some of you to wonder if you can still love Netflix. I sincerely hope that you can.
The Verge also obtained internal messaging from the trans employee resource group organizing the walkout. “Our leadership has shown us they do not uphold the values to which we are held,” the message asserts. “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.”