Netflix has denied the accusations that the streamer suspended one of their trans employees “for tweeting” about Dave Chappelle’s anti-trans special.
In The Closer, the comedian’s latest special for Netflix, Chappelle declared himself a “TERF” after defending Harry Potter author JK Rowling’s transphobic comments.
“They cancelled J.K. Rowling — my god. [Effectively] she said gender was a fact, the trans community got mad as shit, they started calling her a TERF,” Chappelle said.
The term “TERF” references “trans-exclusionary radical feminists” whose views are widely seen as transphobic.
After making “jokes” about the bodies of trans women, he went on to say: “Gender is a fact. Every human being in this room, every human being on earth, had to pass through the legs of a woman to be on earth. That is a fact.”
Despite his aforementioned comments, Chappelle then claimed that he’s not saying “trans women aren’t women” and that “people who watch his specials would know that I never had a problem with transgender people”.
The “comedy” special received intense backlash online. Jameela Jamil, Gigi Gorgeous and Dear White People showrunner Jaclyn Moore criticised Chappelle for his “jokes” and Netflix for allowing such transphobic rhetoric on their platform.
The latter, who is trans, said she “won’t work for Netflix again as long as they keep promoting and profiting from dangerous transphobic content”.
Terra Field, a software engineer at Netflix, also went viral for a thread in which she expressed why she was unhappy with Chappelle’s special.
“I work at @netflix. Yesterday we launched another Chappelle special where he attacks the trans community, and the very validity of transness – all while trying to pit us against other marginalized groups,” she wrote.
“You’re going to hear a lot of talk about “offence.””
Field continued: “What we object to is the harm that content like this does to the trans community (especially trans people of colour) and very specifically Black trans women… Promoting TERF ideology (which is what we did by giving it a platform yesterday) directly harms trans people, it is not some neutral act.
“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. So who does this harm?”
Field went on to list the 38 trans people that have been murdered in the United States this year due to intolerance and bigotry.
“These are the people that a callous disregard for the lives of trans people by our society have taken from us, and they all deserved better,” she added. “That these 38 people died for the crime of being themselves? That actually *does* offend me.”
According to reports, Netflix later suspended Field and two other employees for trying to attend a director-level meeting they weren’t invited to. In a statement to The Verge, a Netflix spokesperson denied suspending Field because of her tweets.
“It is absolutely untrue to say that we have suspended any employee for tweeting about this show,” they said. “Our employees are encouraged to disagree openly and we support their right to do so.”
Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos later defended Chappelle in a meme sent out Friday, which was confirmed by the Hollywood Reporter.
Sarandos warned staff that “some talent may join third parties in asking us to remove the show in the coming days, which we are not going to do.”
“Chappelle is one of the most popular stand-up comedians today, and we have a long standing deal with him,” he wrote.
“As with our other talent, we work hard to support their creative freedom — even though this means there will always be content on Netflix some people believe is harmful, like Cuties, 365 Days, 13 Reasons Why or My Unorthodox Life. Several of you have also 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. 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.”
In response to the memo and the suspension of its employees, GLAAD said Netflix has “a policy that content ‘designed to incite hate or violence’ is not allowed on the platform, but we all know that anti-LGBTQ content does exactly that.
“While Netflix is home to groundbreaking LGBTQ stories, now is the time for Netflix execs to listen to LGBTQ employees, industry leaders, and audiences and commit to living up to their own standards.”