MADE IN DAGENHAM Review
By Shiuan Butler
MADE IN DAGENHAM is a truly inspirational film on what one person--woman--can do when one really cares about an issue and has a group backing them. The film is based on the true-story fight for equal pay by Ford female machinists in the late 1960s starring Sally Hawkins as Rita O'Grady, Bob Hoskins, Miranda Richardson, and Rosamund Pike.
The film did not portray Rita as a natural public speaker who loves the limelight. We see her hesitancy and nervousness throughout, but because of her passion and caring for the female machinists and women in general she is able to move people and make a difference. We see in one of the first scenes with Rita and the Ford managers she argues firmly, but simply that increasing their pay to that of skilled workers is not that hard a concept to grasp.
It was great to get to see the parallel of Rita O'Grady's fight for equal pay at work and how it affected her home life and the subsequent breakdown of her marriage as her husband, Daniel Mays, eventually lost his job at the Ford factory (the women's strike turned out to be quite powerful after all). He had to take up parenting and housework which was not only a disaster, but left him a bit confused as to his new role as well. (If he wasn't the breadwinner, what was he?) Pressure on Rita only increased-- as the male-dominated union went against her when Ford shut down the whole factory in hoping to use divide and conquer to break the women's strike.
Ultimately, Rita O'Grady interrupted a big union meeting of an all-male audience and won their crucial support in the fight against Ford. They had traveled across the country by then and eventually the First Secretary of State, Barbara Castle (played by Miranda Richardson) agreed to see them-- without the Prime Minister's permission and even though Ford had threatened to pull their factories. Two years later the Equal Pay Act of 1970 came into effect.
Watching the film made me wish we had more films that revealed the amazing stories that women have achieved but rarely brought to light, and certainly not usually by Hollywood. Thanks to screenwriter, William Ivory, and director, Nigel Cole, and the producers, Stephen Wooley and Elizabeth Karlsen, more people will now know those women's stories and achievements.
As other reviewers mentioned it did not feel like a preachy film on the history of women's rights. It was truly entertaining and dramatic made by true filmmakers. At the same time, it was a great experience watching it and knowing that it was a true story-- that working-class women laid their jobs, and truly everything, on the line because they knew they were worth it. It was a good reminder that sexism is not all that complex. We want equal pay for equal labor. Period. Even now, women are still getting paid 77 cents to men's dollar. Maybe we should start another strike.
Shiuan Butler is a writer, blogger, activist and author of Manifesto for Young Asian Women, where she shares heartfelt advice from her personal experiences to help empower young women and girls. She's passionate about surfing and presently works at the feminist speakers' agency, Soapbox, Inc.
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