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The Theme of Women’s Equality in Movies

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    What does made in Dagenham tell us about aspects of ‘the women question? ” for instance what are women like? What do they want? What is their proper sphere? You may wish to comment upon how the film works as a film for instance framing images, music, and characterization. Etc. Made in Dagenham The film “Made in Dagenham” directed by Nigel Cole is based on a true story but is not completely accurate with politically history. East London, Essex, on June 8 1968, 187 women machinist’s workers when on strike for equality.

    They went on strike for three weeks, the ford plant at which they worked at had to stop production, of the product due to the lack of sew seats. They were successful in getting rid of their lower rates of pay. It was only when Barbara Castle the employment minister came in to negotiate a settlement. In a result of the strike the equal pay act of 1970 was made, but was effective in 1975. This film shows the struggle of machinists during this time. Who were the women? The women were highly skilled in certain area. Which was one of the most important parts to the vehicle because that’s what the custom saw and felt before buying the car.

    The women weren’t actually feminists to the extreme of what society see feminists in; they just wanted recognition for what they did. They just wanted justice for labor they were doing. They would do up to 30 seats an hour, they were watched and timed they did it. Sew fords seats was not an easy task. Conditions that they work in The women put up with harsh working conditions. They’d worked in an aircraft hanger with holes in the roof, which they to stuff to keep warm. The bricks were also filled with asbestos. They didn’t stripped down like in the film, the women they had pride in what they did and how they did it.

    Injuries were common in the work place the machinists worked without guards on the needles. On B grade the women earned eight or nine pounds. Any money was put straight to the home. “It went in the home didn’t it, and on the children” A striker Violet Dawson (Source 4). By 1984, women at the Ford car plant still experienced harsh conditions, with still no guards on the needles and hearing was damaged by machinery noise. The lifestyle that women had was durable barely. What they were fighting for The machinists went on strike for many different reasons.

    When the strike first began the machinists originally wanted just to be re-graded to a “C” grade of semi-skilled, rather then “B” graded as unskilled. They wanted recognition of their skills, “Demand a level playing field” Rita O’Grady (source 7). Ironically, The equal pay act did not help the machinists in winning their re-grading, as they could only claim that their skill level matched some men, but they could not compare themselves to any man in their role, because there was none. Their argument was if they had the same skill level as the men then they should be pay equally as the men in the workforce.

    Which that argument was not won until another strike in 1984. Due the result of the settlement with Barbara Castle, their pay rate immediately increased 8% below the men (Source 4). Putting them in the full category “C” rate the following year. The strike showed the widespread of in justice in the employment between men and women pay. The equal pay act legislation gave women employees the right to an industrial tribunal pay equal with men. The catch is with the legislation only if the women doing “like work” or if the employment is rated as equivalent, could only be pay equally.

    The ford machinists need to be re-graded if they to get “like work” in the legislation. How did the strike help? This strike started an enduring legacy. It was an example to the rest. The women trades unionists founded the National Joint Action Campaign Committee for Women’s Equal Rights, was born out of the strike. Which went on to held and equal pay demonstration’ attended by 1,000 people in Trafalgar Square on 18 May 1969. The result on passing of the Equal Pay Act 1970, aim to prohibit inequality of treatment between men and women in terms of pay and conditions of employment, “Equal pay or nothing” Rita O’Grady (source 7).

    This strike helped empower other women in the same situation to fight for rights in the work force. The second reading of the debate of the bill, machinists got be to cited next to MP Shirley Summerskill due to playing an important part in history for the struggle of equal pay. When the UK joined the European union in 1973, became under the subject of article 119 of the 1957 treaty of Rome. That specifies that men and women should receive equal pay for equal work. All the women were in the union; it was a strong force to backed them up. In 1983, the “Equal Value Amendment Regulations” passed as an amendment to the Equal Pay Act.

    The European Court of Justice had found that UK legislation was not sufficient to provide for equal work for equal value for all employees. The new legislation gave women the right to go to an employment tribunal on a new ground: that they felt their work was of equal value to men in the same organization. The women at Ford used this to challenge Ford’s discriminatory job evaluation scheme, but the employment tribunal ruled against them and turned down their appeal in 1984. With their renewed hopes once again unfulfilled by the law, the women at Ford took strike action in December 1984.

    Source 4) Did the men support them? Some workingmen helped the women in the strike. The husbands that worked in the ford plant supported their wife’s throughout the strike. The families that worked in the ford plant were from poorer parts of London, so the chance to get more money was gladly welcomed. Due to the mishap with the sign, a photographer only photo “We want sex” out of “We want sexual equality”, was resulting in lot women receiving wolf whistle, waving and beeping the horns in cars from pasting men showing the support while the women were on strike.

    In the film, Rita husbands Eddie shows his support by staying home taking care of house work and looking after of the children, while Rita’s leads more women to strike for equality. During the film it shows the toll it takes on changing roles in traditional marriage. After the confrontation with Rita, Eddie realizes the strike isn’t just about what the machinists want it became about what’s right and what’s fair to women across the board. Film techniques How were the women portrayed in the movie? The way the machinists were portrayed in the film was quite different to what actually happen.

    The women didn’t actually work at Dagenham the worked about a mile way in place called river plant; it was a collection of sheds. The film’s cheerful demeanor takes away from the mood that the striking machinists when thought during the time of strike. The feel good theme of movie did make the film a pop culture hit but it took away from the seriousness and hardship of what the women actually when through to change the ways of discrimination towards women. The film title was going to be based on a mishap with photo of “we want sex” sign that happen during the strike. The women were made out to be very sexualizes in the film.

    For example they didn’t strip down in the work place. The Bitterness of industrial action is gone, due to women were more glamorous in the film then in real life. They were unjust with they were treated in 1968, now this film has been unjust in portrayed them in their struggle. However other topics were raised during the movie. Not only one form of discrimination against women represent in the film with their wage but other forms of discrimination against women. E. g. women’s place in workplace. Most women at work and also support their family, trying balance family life with work wasn’t easy due to the hours they worked.

    Women were missed treated and this strike gave them a chance to be equal to men to some way. The women were trying to be equal to men in some sort of ground. Rita O’Grady the main character of the film is a composite character. Her character of lacking in personal self- confidence, also no “political experience” or public specking, was perfect character to suit role of the machinists. The lack of person self- confidence was common during that time, because most women didn’t much confidence outside the there home. Women during that time didn’t have political experience.

    During the character development of Rita thought the film finds strength and determination, capacitive with the audience to watch the feel good movie, movie watch the historical change. The film The directors use a few techniques to show what time period this historical event. The open credits started with joyful 60’s music. The director used old ford ads, giving audience a time period in the time in what the machinists work in. The first scene of the film is the women riding their bikes to work showing the audience their style in hair and clothes but also the bubbly and up beat theme of the movie.

    When the machinists first enter their working area they stripped down immediately, showing films sexualize with machinists in the first scene. It a great directed opening for what time period, its easy for audience to catch on what time period their from. In the ford meeting scene for re-grading shows a bit controversy between the women and the ford mangers. The table setting of the men and women, the director places the men directly in front of each other, with women to side. This shot framing shows that the men were taking control for women and making decisions without women having say.

    It wasn’t until Rita spoke up in the meeting leaving the men shocked, clearly showing the audience understanding it was very unusually to hear a women speak up in their own fairs in the workforce. Director portrayed the first day of the strike; as if it wasn’t taken seriously by ford. It was displayed in the film by way, women stood outside, and every one kept working going on with their daily life as if nothing is wrong. Both these scene are in important in showing the audience what kind situation the machinists were in. What are the results for today?

    The equal pay act of 1970 of UK parliament prohibits of any unfavorable treatment between men and women in pay and condition of employment. Thought in 2010 result of survey showed that women still earn on average 16. 4 per cent less per hour than men. The Machinists struggle has inspired many other workingwomen struggles in the workplace. The machinists helped set up equal working environment for both genders. The film does show the struggle of the machinists during the trail. The use of Rita O’Grady helped the film to engage the audience, while still informing the audience of the strike in 1968. The machinists helped changed he workforce for women, giving women a chance to work equally it the workforce. The director did a brilliant job on making the film an enjoyable movie about the ford machinists but failed in sticking to politically history. By Caitlin Kehoe 11500918


    1. ‘Wikipedia’ (2012) http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Ford_sewing_machinists_strike_of_1968
    2. ‘The union makes us strong’ http://www. unionhistory. info/timeline/Tl_Display. php? Where=Dc1Title+contains+’Ford+sewing+machinists%2C+1968′
    3. “The independent, Made in Dagenham: A1968 strike led to equal pay for women” (2010) Britain http://www. ndependent. co. uk/news/uk/this-britain/made-in-dagenham-a-1968-strike-led-to-equal-pay-for-women-2077177. html
    4. “The real story of made in Dagenham” (2008) http://www. workersliberty. org/story/2008/07/14/real-story-made-dagenham
    5. M, Davis. London. “A historical introduction to the campaign of equal pay” http://www. unionhistory. info/equalpay/roaddisplay. php? irn=820
    6. “Made In Dagenham” (2012) http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Made_in_Dagenham
    7. “Made in Dagenham” directed by Nigel Cole (2010)

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