Surprise, Surprise: Stunt Industry Just as Sexist and Dude-Dominated as the Rest of Hollywood
Wouldn't want to spread stunt-cooties, would we?
In many ways, Hollywood’s lack of diversity just comes down to “men hiring people that remind them of themselves,” ie other men.
Colin Trevorrow made the jump from indie pictures to Jurassic World via a near verbatim endorsement from Brad Bird (“there is this guy that reminds me of me!”), male creators often view male as default in their characters, and in a Deadline exclusive earlier this week, several veteran stuntwomen have revealed that the stunt industry is no exception.
The report highlighted stuntwomen’s historic exclusion from fraternal organizations like the Stuntmen’s Association of Motion Pictures and Stunts Unlimited, groups that refuse to admit women and perpetuate the gender divide by effectively acting as hiring halls. (Deadline reports that the gender bias of stunt coordinators is so strong, “it’s not unheard of” for them to “hire one of their buddies and put him in a wig and dress for the job” if the role in question is a female part.)
A veteran stuntwoman explained to Deadline that the stunt community’s male-as-default attitude even expands to non-gender-specific roles:
Almost all the groups try to hire within their own groups first. The men often hire their wives or girlfriends, many of whom are not even stuntwomen.
They mentor the younger guys in their groups and let them assist them. So it’s harder for women to learn the ropes. It hurts women who want to get into coordinating and running stunts.
It’s hard to get the guys to think that a few of those cops or soldiers could be women.
Stuntmen’s Association of Motion Pictures hasn’t had a single female member in its 54-year history, but has allowed six women (including Lucille Ball and Julie Andrews) to have honorary member status. Stunts Unlimited has no current female members, but bills itself as “the ultimate goal for any stunt person coming to Hollywood” (any person, just not the female ones!).
Deadline writes that “The Black Stuntmen’s Association, which has fought for inclusion since the 1960s, is the only stuntman’s group whose website lists stuntwomen among its current members.” Of course, stuntwomen of color have a one-two punch of racism and sexism to contend with; last October Gotham came under fire for planning to film a white stuntwoman in blackface rather than find a black stuntwoman for the role.
Another anonymous stuntwoman explained,
I had a sponsor at Stunts Unlimited, but I got turned down. They didn’t tell me why, but I heard it’s because they believed that ‘women cause too much trouble.’
It’s separate but equal, except it’s not really equal. In my opinion, stunt groups look a lot like hiring halls. The main reason to join the stunt groups is to get work, and it is common knowledge in the stunt business that members generally hire, or suggest the hiring of other members belonging to their respective groups. This is problematic for woman since most of the work comes from groups that have no women members. Those guys just don’t get it. They don’t even see what the problem is.
The presence of stuntwomen specific groups might give some illusion of equality, but even members of the The Stuntwomen’s Association of Motion Pictures or the United Stuntwomen’s Association (which has five male members) feel the impact of the industry’s gender divide. Women are rarely hired as stunt coordinators, and therefore are unable to hire and promote their peers in the same way that male industry members can.
Dudes beget more dudes. Get it together, Hollywood.
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