Friday, April 11, 2008

North Country

I chose to write about the movie, North Country, starring Charlize Theron, Frances McDormand, Sissy Spacek and Woody Harrelson. I had never seen it but heard it was a good portrayal of a woman trying to make it in a man's world working at a mine. The movie takes place in 1989 and starts right out with a beating of the main character Josey Aimes. Her husband repeatedly beat her so after one last beating, Josey decided to take her son and daughter and together they left their poor and tattered home to travel to her hometown in northern Minnesota. Immediately after arriving, she was confronted by her father who asked her, "What did you do" to make her husband beat her! The disbelief and sadness showed in Josey's face after he asked her that question. Josey, whose white patriarchal father worked in the mine decided that she too would need to make good money to raise her kids and find her own home to live in; so, she then decided to get a job at the same mine against her fathers wishes.

Her mother passively respected Josey, but outwardly supported her father's words and actions because of the obvious 'place' she took in the family. Throughout Josey's employment at the dirty mine, she along with several other women were subject to sexist tactics and ridiculing among other harassments by the ticked off male miners who did not want women working there. Josey took a lot of crap and watched the other women be treated horribly (finding a dildo in a locker, semen on her towel, the word 'cunt' painted on the locker walls) so she decided to sue the mining company shortly after meeting with the owner, who she thought would help her, but then found out, he sided with the men and had no intentions on making their working conditions any better. In fact, he told her that she could resign that day and he would accept it. She did resign that day, but later she did and then with the legal help of a friend, she decided to take legal action against the company. That in itself was an uphill battle because none of the other women wanted to get involved because they needed the job and didn't want any more trouble. Eventually, it went through a trial and the result was in favor of Josey and she won the law suit and got a modest settlement. But, more importantly she set the standard of not allowing sexual harassment on the job.

The most important thing that happened in the film to me, was deciding to leave her husband and then deciding to take action against the mining company. Because she was a victim of beatings by a man who supposedly loved her and then being harassed at the mostly male mining company, she showed courage and conviction to stand up for herself and the other women and of course, her children when she took them out of the violent household. There was both positive and negative representation of women in this film. First, her mother lived a very conservative traditional role of being passive, compliant to her husband and she did not verbally stick up for her daughter in a way that I would had my husband talked to my daughter the way Josey's father did to her. Also, the other women in the mine just took the abuse and didn't say anything. They feared for their jobs and just let the men walk all over them. Josey showed the positive side by having guts and determination to take a stand against them to the level she did.

This is truly a feminist film as it clearly depicts men and women in a true setting (it was based on a true story) and showed how women were being treated and probably still are today. Also, it showed how one person can make a difference to inspire others. I enjoyed the film even though I was angry at the injustice of it all. I have never had an experience to the degree in which Josey had, however I was fondled at a job by a man when I was much younger and most recently there has been idle chatter about sex, men and women, etc. in various work places that I have witnessed. I keep thinking to myself that it is never going to go away because men are men and many of them have such high sex drives and feelings that because they have more brawn, they are superior to us and will continue to try to show it. BUT, and it's a big BUT, we have to continue to fight the fight and make it better for our sisters, mothers, daughters and friends.

Kim Seder

Additional information about this film can be found at:

This last one is actually an activist site that one can become involved and act, connect and inspire women and men to make a difference: I actually joined this (it's free) and I hope to become a regular contributor to this site through blogs and discussions.

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