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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

NORTH COUNTRY

NORTH COUNTRY is a movie based on a true story. The movie is starred by Charlize Theron—cast as Josey Aimes—and Frances McDormand—cast as Glory, Josey’s friend.

The movie illustrates the sexual harassment done to women miners working for Pearson Taconite and Steel, Inc. And it reminds me of my own post here some days ago about a male friend of mine working for a mining company located in North Sulawesi; he complained when one day a female miner was hired and she was under his supervision. The complaint was that he didn’t have a heart to give her work to explore an area that he considered difficult for a woman.

A bit different from that experience of my friend, NORTH COUNTRY focuses more on the sexual harassment experienced by women working in the mining company. (It made me wonder, though, whether in the mining company where my friend works male employees also do sexual harassment to women?

There are two main things that attracted my attention when watching this movie: the struggle of Josey Aimes to get justice for women miners, and her personal life as a single mother who tried hard to make her two children happy.

The movie stated that a mining company started to hire women in 1975 in North Minnesota. However, in 1989, the comparison between male and female working in there still showed a big gap: 30:1. As in many other countries in the world, American people classify jobs into men’s jobs and women’s jobs. And working in a mining company is classified into men’s job. When someone—a man or a woman—has a job that is traditionally held by the opposite sex, he or she will get a big protest from society.

Josey Aimes didn’t get permission from her father to work for Pearson Taconite and Steel, Inc. where her father also worked.

Apparently, her father—Hank Aimes--didn’t like it coz he considered the job as men’s job. The bad relationship between the father and the daughter made it worse. My interpretations for these are

  • The father—as a man—felt threatened to lose his job if women started to do this job traditionally held by men. When more and more women are hired to work in a mining company, men will feel threatened that it will be more difficult for them to get a job coz they get more competitors. As the main breadwinner—in a patriarchal society men always want to show their superiority to women by being the solely breadwinner in a family—men feel that their superiority is at stake.
  • The father that felt ashamed coz Josey got pregnant when she was still in high school—without telling who the man was—felt more ashamed coz his daughter decided to do a job traditionally held by men. He had to face society that would accuse him failing to raise a daughter. He wanted to bury Josey’s bad past experience by seeing her as a “good” woman, by being a good wife (unfortunately Josey’s husband often beat her cruelly so that she left him) or by having a “woman’s job”. Society in Minnesota was illustrated as old-fashioned in 1989, such as accusing Josey as a bad woman coz she got pregnant outside the wedlock in a relatively young age, and when she left her husband although she did that due to his cruel treatment.

I really appreciate Josey’s guts to quit from her job—although she needed much money to raise her two children—coz of the sexual harassment she continuously got from her male workmates after she found out that the boss of the company didn’t help her overcome the problem. She reported the company to the court although (at the beginning) none of her workmates supported her coz they were worried to lose their job that meant they would lose their income. The result of the case in the court was very relieving coz Josey won it after Glory and some other female workmates eventually supported her. This winning was very good coz then the mining companies made strong regulation on sexual harassment.

Another thing that impressed me from this movie is Josey’s responsibility to raise her first son although she got pregnant due to a rape done by her high school teacher. She toughly hid this secret although she was accused as having sex with many partners so that she didn’t know which of them was the father of her son. (She even didn’t tell the truth to her parents about it.) It made me wonder if Josey got this idea from Scarlet Letter, a novel written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, where Hester Prynne hid her lover’s name coz he was an outstanding priest: Josey had to keep her high school teacher’s good name?

Every time Josey looked at Sammy—her first son—she would always remember that miserable experience—to be raped by her high school teacher. But still, she kept the pregnancy until her baby was born. She kept loving Sammy although he showed hostility toward her coz he believed what society said that his mother is a bitch.

If only Josey had told her parents since the very beginning why she got pregnant when she was still in high school, she would have had a better relationship with her father, I am wondering. She would have had a lighter burden.

If only Josey had told Sammy since the very beginning that she kept her pregnancy coz she loved her baby, she wouldn’t have undergone the hostility shown by her son.

Anyway, the movie had a happy ending. It reminded me of one lecturer when I was still in college. He said that American movies tend to have a happy ending instead of unhappy ending coz people need to be entertained. :-D

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Women Employee

Some days ago I read in a national newspaper about police women who cannot reach a high position in their job only because they were born as female. Their female bodies are considered as the main weakness for them to do any assignment as police women. Many policemen don’t like to get policewomen as their partners to do one duty, let’s say, coz they say that their burden even will be doubled coz they don’t only think about their own safety, they have to protect their female partner as well. Some of them also complain that sometimes they will have to face the policewomen’s husbands’ jelousy when they have to do a task together. Policewomen, then, will only get desk jobs that often will make their career stop.

According to the article in that newspaper, more than 50% policewomen complain about that. They are in fact ready to do any assignment given to them—not only desk jobs. As policewomen, they used to get training some martial arts too to protect themselves so why their male partners complain about having to protect them?

It reminded me of a male friend of mine who works for a mining company in North Sulawesi, one big island in Indonesia. Some months ago he told me about a new female employee as his subworker. He complained coz he couldn’t give her any job coz she was a female. “I don’t have a heart to send her to a mining site in a forest, let’s say, coz it is a hard job for a woman. It is not an easy area to explore. I don’t have a heart either to send her to a mining site in another site where the weather is hot coz it will ruin her complexion. She will become dark due to that.”

Simply I responded, “Do you think she doesn’t know her risk to choose that kind of job? She must be ready to face any risk she gets in her job coz it is her own choice. Why don’t you just stop bothering yourself and just give her any duty she has to do; any duty you would give to a male subworker? Treat them equal.”

“It is easy for you to say that coz you are a feminist. You always want to be treated equally. I am not sure with her though,” he still complained.

“If she refuses, send her home. She is not ready to work for a mining company then. Tell her that she has made a wrong choice.”

Oh well, I forget to ask him whether my friend eventually gives the new female employee any duty, and whether she still goes on working there.

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