Feminist Movie Review: North Country
Released in 2005, North Country depicts the hardships women faced while working in the mines of Northern Minnesota around 1989. The movie jumps between scenes of the hearing on women’s safety at work and scenes of all the events that lead up to a brave woman named Josey Aimes taking a stand against the injustices men in the North Country mines committed towards the women that worked there. Through the juxtaposition of such scenes the viewer learns how these women miners were subjected to cruel sex jokes, sexual assault, juvenile pranks, and various derogatory comments from their male co-workers. Despite the “promise” management gave to the women to help them deal with such problems, their “advice” offered ridicule. The fact that women worked in the mines became an issue for their family, friends, the community, and with themselves. With the help of open-minded people the nation’s first class-action sexual-harassment lawsuit entered and triumphed on the legal ground.
Several gender issues arise in this film. The men get away with indecent and cruel acts while the women, many of whom have done nothing wrong, are considered whores for working in the mines. In one scene another hockey mom shouts up as Josey into the crowd for her to stay away from Bobby Sharp, the woman’s husband and current assaulter of Josey. Traditional gender roles and ideas are presented multiple times throughout the movie. Josey’s mother gives a talk to Josey about how a mother’s purpose is to her children. Josey’s boss tells her at the beginning of her job that women have no business at the mines and that if she runs into any problems she just needs to “take it like a man.” One issue the women had was not having Porta-Johns out in the mine, since they have to “pull the cover-alls all the way down.” Even so, the women were not given enough bathroom breaks though men seemed to go whenever they wished, which led to a bladder infection in one female miner.
The women in this film are represented in many different ways. There are the strong, the uncertain, the flirty, the weak, and every other characteristic a woman can show during her life. However, at the end of the movie all the women displayed their self-respect and helped carry the sexual harassment suit into a class-action movement. This showed that women of all different idea and backgrounds could unite under a common cause. I feel that this gave an empowering representation of females. I do not agree with the personalities of all the female characters, but I understand that after all was said and done they simply wanted self-respect on the job.
For me North Country is definitely a feminist film because it addresses one of the main points of feminism: respect. All people deserve equal respect regardless of gender, race, and class, and this is what the film specifically addresses. It is hard to say whether or not I like the film because I do not enjoy scenes involving sexual assault. I the film was incredibly well put together and that the director took great care to not cheapen the issue that the court case covered. Fortunately, I can say that I have not yet had to deal with such harassment or assault in a workplace, but after reading more on the court case that inspired the film I realized how this affects my life. The Jenson v. Eveleth Taconite Co. case was not settled until 1998; I had already been alive for 12 years. I have no idea what my mother must have felt raising two daughters in a time when sexual assault was not fully addressed in the workplace.