Sunday, October 16, 2011
Made in Dagenham -- leadership and equality
Director: Nigel Cole, 2010. (R)
Many people will ask two questions of this movie up front: where is Dagenham? And what is made in Dagenham? Well, Dagenham is a suburb of London, and in the 1960s Ford cars were made in Dagenham. Indeed, Ford Motor Company was one of the largest private employers in the United Kingdom and carried some clout with the Prime Minister, Mr. Harold Wilson, and his cabinet. More than this, though, they employed thousands of men but only 187 women.
Made in Dagenham presents the true story of these women, focused on Rita O’Grady (Sally Hawkins, Happy Go Lucky), a normal working-class mother and wife, who took on this giant and won. It is a David vs Goliath story that has tremendous heart, and much of this goes to the stellar casting. Hawkins delights as Rita, giving her a lightness of spirit that charms and endears, even as she fights valiantly for what she believes in. Bob Hoskins provides excellent support as the union rep Albert Passingham who sees the potential in Rita when no one else does, including her husband Eddie (Daniel Mays).
Rita and her fellow female workers sew car seat upholstery as machinists. They slave away in sweatshop conditions, literally, having to strip down to bra and panties in the heat, and having to put up umbrellas to catch the drips when it rains.
Since these women have been reclassified as unskilled, rather than semi-skilled, workers they decide to stand up to management. Albert takes shop steward Connie (Geraldine James) and Rita as his team to present their claims to the snotty managers. When the “old-boys school” manner takes over and management offers empty promises, Rita interrupts the chief union rep, speaking her mind. And she tells the managers the truth, setting the stage for a strike by the women, something no one believed would happen.
With this, Albert realizes Rita is a natural leader. Taking her aside, he tells her why he, alone, of all the men supports the women. He shares a heart-felt story of his youth. And she picks up the baton, becoming the leader he envisions, even though it undermines her marriage and family.
Rita offers a wonderful picture of leadership. Not looking for such a position, it found her and she rose to the occasion. People often claim that leaders are born not made, but leaders can learn and be groomed. Leadership is a talent that can be developed. In Rita’s case, she becomes visibly stronger as her opportunities to speak increase. Her leadership flows from her passion, commitment and integrity. She is reminiscent of David, the second King of the Israelites in the Old Testament. He, too, fought a giant, and he, too, was not seen as a leader initially. When God sent Samuel to anoint one of Jesse’s sons as king, Jesse thought of his older and bigger sons. Even Samuel looked at the outward appearance (1 Sam. 16:6ff). But God had chosen David, and groomed him. Indeed, he had “sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people” (1 Sam. 13:14). We all possess some talent in leadership, and may find the opportunity to demonstrate it, especially if we stand prepared.
The main issue involved lends weight to the plot. When Rita learns that even if they are regraded as semi-skilled, the women will earn an appalling fraction of the men’s wages, the stakes are raised. No longer is it a matter of pay grade; now it is a matter of pay equality. Rita lifts the banner high for women everywhere, and her peers follow her. Leadership in action!
at 7:00 AM