“Made in Dagenham”: feisty women who know how to fight

Made in Dagenham

Directed by Nigel Cole

2010, Rated R (for language and brief sexuality)*, 113 min

The best scene in the new British film, “Made in Dagenham,” comes when a reporter asks Mrs O’Grady how her band of strikers will be able to cope. “We’re women!” she explains pointedly.

The movie dramatizes the 1968 strike at the Ford plant in Dagenham, England, where female upholstery fitters demanded an upgrade to “semi-skilled” labor and wages commensurate to men’s. Sally Hawkins is so perfect in the part that it’s difficult to remember that she’s an actress already known for other fine roles. Bob Hoskins underplays his feminist union leader role to perfection!

One could quibble with William Ivory’s screenplay for taking obvious liberties with the basic facts. Women may object to the personal information that Ivory had to have made up. It also takes swipes against unions, communists, and other activists; but all liberals do that. I couldn’t say if censorship forces it on them or if it’s just their ingrained nature, but very few movies since 1947 say anything good about us. Bob Hoskins’ character does get one excellent opportunity to set the record straight on what Marxists think about equality for women.

There are not nearly enough movies that tell what it is like to go through concerted labor action. The basic quarrel between management and labor inevitably spills over into fights between workers on the picket line and at home. Any drama that showed how heroic workers overcome their divisive fears is welcome. “Made in Dagenham” does all that and more, because it recounts an historically important event with women clearly in leadership, even to the point of dragging men across the finish line with them.

It’s an inspiring story, and should inspire progress for women’s equality, where progress is very much needed!

Historical photo of Dagenham women voting to strike, Creative Commons

* About that R rating: This film is suitable for anyone with even half a brain, something that raters apparently do not possess. – Editors