Unfinished in Dagenham

In between starting to do some work again, i am taking time out to kick back and watch as many feelgood films as i can. I may have mentioned “Eat, Pray, Love”, which i caught last week (and am still a bit unsure about: liked the tone, but felt the ending was just a tad pretentious).

Can anyone lend me a film?

And yesterday i was desperately trying to finish “Made in Dagenham”, before it got grabbed and hurried back to Blockbuster.

Sadly, i didn’t. I guess i got about three-quarters thru…all the way to the bit where things turn bleak for the women at the centre of the action…and now i’m desperate to find someone local with a copy they can lend me.

Its a film that makes you think in a fair few ways. For starters, there is the pretty automatic assumption that women should earn less than men. Now: i’ll certainly argue the toss about the precise size of the gender pay gap (since i think some polemicists over-estimate it for predictable and possibly wrong-headed reasons). But otherwise, i am against it.

Yet here is a society – the society i grew up in where the debate isn’t about comparability and whether this or that percent is acceptable, but one where the very idea that women should get equal pay for equal work is alien. Wow!

Makes you realise just how far we’ve come, in one sense.

The hierarchy of victimhood

But there was another moment that resonated. I don’t think i’m plot-spoiling if i give away a bit about the background. “Made in Dagenham” is a story about the Ford sewing machinists strike of 1968 that was based around a demand for equal pay for women.

This was revolutionary stuff: the bosses, quite clearly, understood and, in their way, probably collaborated in demands for “more”. After all, everyone wants more, don’t they?

But this equality lark. Again, quite understandable for the Ford senior management to jibe at the idea of paying women the same as men. But what was interesting – not lest because it rings so true – is the way the (male-dominated) union officials are depicted.

Happy to pat the girls on their heads and send them on their way initially, the whole affair soon gets out of hand. The unions are engaged in ongoing and structured negotiations, doncha know, and women sticking their oar in like this and demanding THEIR rights: well, its very apple-cart-upsetting of them.

The scene that brings this home is the one where shop floor Albert (Bob Hoskins) is called in and carpeted. Officials explain, as though telling off a small child, that they are fully in agreement with the aims, but…there needs to be a sense of proportion. They are busy dealing with the real stuff, like negotiating pay grades for the Men. And this female thing has got out of hand: its distracting. Its getting in the way.

Funny, that.

I’m sure people nowadays would be that bit more subtle. But i can’t help imagining that if the LGBT movement had a structure and shop stewards and the like, much the same interview would be taking place in dozens of states over the last year…with gay shp stewards explaining patiently to us trannies how they support us, but the focus has to be on the REAL issues, like gay marriage…and we really need to understand the realities of the situation and keep our heads down and not rock the boat (and other assorted clichés) by demanding action on trivial stuff like trans rights until the rest has been sorted.

Unfair? Maybe. But not entirely, as this is just the impression that a succession of gay-led organisations have been giving of late. Which is a shame: cause i’ve always been a vocal supporter of gay rights, irrespective of my own status.

And now, i just wish there would be some reciprocation.



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