The male gaze is an age-old pillar of toxic masculine behaviour, characterised solely by the tendency to objectify and sexualise women. Think Megan Fox dressing up as a schoolgirl in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 … and for what purpose? The outfit choice made no difference to the plot whatsoever. It’s a demeaning and reductive tradition, but nowadays it’s starting to risk the lives of women in the film industry.
The Very Real Risk of Stunts
South African stuntwoman Olivia Jackson lost her left arm and spent 17 days in a coma after a motorcycle stunt went wrong on the set of Resident Evil. The fashion-over-function costume of the character she was doubling meant that she was unable to wear protective equipment. The simple decision to turn a female character into a visual object is commonly made in Hollywood, but in this instance, it almost cost a woman her life.
Looking Behind the Scenes
Veteran stuntwoman Tammie Baird once spoke about her first ever stunt in an interview, recalling how she bought protective pads “like a guy,” only to discover that her wardrobe consisted of little more than a miniskirt. The stunt in question required her to be hit by a car; what kind of horribly skewed world places sex appeal and safety on a level with one another?
In the words of stunt woman Maja Aro, a stuntwoman does: “the exact same stunt as a guy, but [they are] wearing, like, no clothes, or [they are] in six-inch heels”.
Dayna Grant was once impaled by a dagger and went into cardiac arrest because of the “slippery, feminine shoes” that she was forced to wear. How often are we told about incidents like these in the media? Male gaze has become such an ingrained tradition that its now lethal effects are hidden from us in order to protect its place in the world.
Putting Safety First
All stunt people embark on a difficult job. It is highly technical – from memorising the body language quirks of the actors that they double to ensuring that the stunts are choreographed to be as safe as possible – and dangerous work. Why should deadly risk be included on top of all that?
Why do we let stuntwomen suffer? Why should female characters in major blockbusters wear miniskirts and high heels that not only create impossible ideals for women but hurt real people? How many more women have to get hurt before we demand change?
There are ways to stop this. Support films made by women for women. Be loud with your criticisms of unrealistic clothing and push for equity in representation when it comes to the gender identity of film roles. Demand change: it will come.
Talented, innocent women will one day stopping paying the price for having to please men.