If you’re a stunt artist in Hollywood, one of the easiest way to find work in film is by joining one of the entertainment industry’s many stunt associations. Unfortunately, this poses a significant limitation on women stunt workers, as many of these groups are reluctant to bring in female members.
In a recent report for Deadline, writer David Robb interviewed several stuntwomen about sexism in the industry. Overwhelmingly, the women responded that being female made it increasingly difficult to find work. This, they say, is partially because of their exclusion from well-established stunt groups like the Stuntmen’s Association of Motion Pictures, Stunts Unlimited, and the International Stunt Association.
As Robb reports:
The stuntmen’s groups...aren’t just boy’s clubs; they’re also de facto hiring halls. The vast majority of stunt coordinators are men, and when a stunt coordinator is hired for a show, he’s expected to recommend that the producers hire members from within the ranks of his own stunt group first.
Older members, according to one veteran stuntwoman, “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.”
The same stuntwomen said that it’s also hard to get male stunt coordinators to consider how many available roles could go to a female stunt artist. “It’s hard to get the guys to think that a few of those cops or soldiers could be women,” she says.
Even when the role distinctly calls for a female presence, things get messy: “The men often hire their wives or girlfriends, many of whom are not even stuntwomen.” Either that, or they put a man in a wig.
Asked why they refuse to allow women members, Stuntmen’s Association president, J. Mark Donaldson told Robb, “We’re a fraternal organization. Do you need to have women in the stuntmen’s organizations? Personally, I don’t think you need to, anymore than you need a man in any of the female stunt organizations.”
But what it comes down to, again, is the monopoly these boys’ clubs hold on available work, as well as the connections that get their members those jobs.
One interesting fact:
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.
Robb also notes that, instead of brining in stunt artists of color, white stuntmen and women will often be “paint[ed] down” (i.e. put in black or brown face) to appear as a different race.
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