Stuntwoman Deven McNair Alleges Discrimination Complaint Affected Job Opportunities

Deven McNair’s story shares an arc with that of Jean Coulter, the veteran stuntwoman who says she was blacklisted in the ’80s after reporting sexual harassment. In McNair’s case, though, the complaint she filed was about discrimination. McNair, who has accrued more than 80 stunt performer and/or coordinator credits in the past 10 years, claimed that in 2016, on the set of The Domestics, she was supposed to double for actor Kate Bosworth, but stunt coordinator Nick Gillard barred her from performing the stunt, deeming it “too unsafe.” Instead, McNair says, Gillard dressed as Bosworth and performed the stunt himself. The practice of stuntmen dressing as women, thereby preventing the employment of women in a field in which they’re already underrepresented, is known in the industry as “wigging” and has been an issue since at least the ’60s, according to Coulter.

McNair has gotten work as a stunt coordinator after filing her complaint. But in a new Guardian story about stuntwomen, she said she’s worked as a performer for just three days since (earlier this year, Deadline posted a PDF of McNair’s complaint to the Equal Employee Opportunity Commission that’s dated September 6, 2017). “All I said was, ‘Where is this stuntwoman? Why is there a man in a wig?’” she told The Guardian.

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The Guardian also reports that the Screen Actors Guild looked into McNair’s complaint, concluded the practice of wigging is “not acceptable,” but SAG declined to fine anyone responsible for The Domestics. McNair, who’s reportedly pursuing a class action suit against MGM, said she’s heard from other women in the industry, who’ve endured misogynistic mistreatment but are afraid to speak out:

“Keep in mind that these are the strongest, most badass women in America and they are silent,” MacNair told The Guardian. “They’re getting raped, sexually harassed, sexually assaulted and they’re losing work.” She adds: “I tell the women: ‘What are you scared of? Less work? They’re already not hiring you. You’re barely making a living anyway because the men make sure they keep the jobs for themselves.’”

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The Guardian reported that stunt coordinator Gillard emailed McNair regarding her complaint: “My main job as a stunt coordinator is to ensure the safety of cast and crew, and if that involves me doing the stunt, then that is what will happen.”

In February, Deadline reported that McNair’s attorney said McNair received a death threat after filing her complaint. McNair declined to discuss the threat then, but she did say: “I’m getting all these weird calls. I get calls from guys saying it’s a ‘career-ender.’ If it is, I’m OK with that. I’ll take it. I knew what I was getting myself into. But production can’t get away with this any longer.”

Some Pig. Terrific. Radiant. Humble.

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DISCUSSION

While it’s definitely admirable to have a stunt coordinator looking out for their stuntworkers considering how many stuntpeople get injured or even killed on the job, I’d like to hear a more in-depth explanation of why he thought he was more capable of doing the stunt in drag than an actual woman.

I would think donning a wig and fake boobs would negatively impact one’s performance if the stunt is truly that dangerous. By that statement, I’m looking for a reason other than “Im a man.” He could have modified the stunt or cancelled it if he felt it wasn’t safe enough.

As it is, the quotes carry more than a slight whiff of “you just aren’t strong enough to handle this, little lady, but as a man, I sure am”. On its own, it doesn’t necessarily sound that dramatic, it’s just one stunt. But one wigged stunt becomes two becomes a trend becomes a habit, and that’s how institutionalized sexism works. Plus, add in the other situations and issues of harassment and sexism the article references; it’s death by a thousand cuts.

Also, reporting gets death threats. That alone should basically prove the whole point that there’s a deep, systemic problem going on that men will go to great lengths to try and defend.