MinDegenham plan

Made in Dagenham presentation
1) Minority < Superpower
British films often depict the social challenges including unemployment, prejudice and race relations, as
well as positive themes such as the benefits of the UK’s diverse multi­cultural population, family values and
friendship. Among these films, Made in Dagenham that deals with equal rights for women. It belongs to the
social drama categories like Ken Loach’s or Mike Leigh’s movies.
When I first watched the movie, I have noticed striking elements:
 First of all: the illustration of a typical strike and its different phases
A large group of people with weak power, against a small group of people with big power
The choice of a leader
The doubts when it comes to fighting for a cause
Trying to find a deal
How it ends up
 But also: the different conception of work between Americans and British people, and through this
different conception we can notice what makes the British identity.
a) Economic context : British Beatlemania
In order to better understand the movie, we need to know the context of the 1960’s in Britain.
The 1960’s are also called “swinging sixties” a Post-World War II era during which optimism has pushed young people to
rebel for more social freedom. We can take the example of frenzy for The Beatles band, so popular that it has been named
Some politicians noticed the political potential of youth like the Socialist PM Harold Wilson (1964-70).
Wilson believed in a strong association of labour and technology: In his speech Labour Party's Annual Conference in 1963
he said: "the Britain that is going to be forged in the white heat of this revolution will be no place for restrictive practices or
for outdated measures on either side of industry".
So during this period, the question regarding the role of technology, and the role of labour within factories really disrupted
working conditions and social interactions at the workplace in Britain.
So this establishing shot (which is a long shot) depicts the living conditions of the workers of the Ford factory:
Social housing on the foreground, near the factories
The traditional English green grass
Factories on the background
So as viewers, we have the impression that the building takes much space since it’s on the foreground so that gives an stifling
But the camera is going from the building to the factories. It was intended in order for the audience to focus on the factories.
And Right after, we have a pan down shot. So the camera is moving from the building (we don’t see the factories anymore)
to the courtyard with the pitch. The wanted effect is to make the audience feel like they are getting into the workers’
everyday life. This technique makes the audience feel oppressed. The sky or grass aren’t visible anymore, we can only see
concrete and walls and again that creates a very oppressive atmosphere.
Thanks to these shots we learn about the women’s lives and their families.
What is important to know is that during the 1960’s, there used to be large-scale construction of residential tower blocks.
They were demonstrating serious shortcomings in design and construction and were rapidly falling out of favour with the
public. Resistance grew to the practice of demolishing the existing housing and replacing it with the seemingly inhuman
towers, which isolated individuals and were inappropriate for families.
b) Definition of perspectives within the factory, unskilled definition
All along the movie, the women rebelled against the American bosses who called them “unskilled”. The extent of the
meaning of a skilled person is a depiction of the conception of work during the 1960’s.
Nowadays, we consider that any individual can do anything if they were provided equal chances at the beginning.
But women were not given the opportunity to get specific skills recognized with diploma, and then change job within the
factory. However they just didn’t have a diploma but could do things that the men cannot do, so they are actually skilled
So when Albert faces the women, he’s
standing in front of them. At first sight, as
viewers, we could think that the filmmaker
decided to put Albert above the women just to
be able to talk the whole audience.
However it is a bit more complex, here it aims
to show how the boss had a greater social
status, and also how he had a better status as a
When Albert wants to talk to Rita, but she doesn’t want to but she finally accepts to talk to him after the protest when she
ends up alone. It really shows the boss and men superiority.
The boss asks to do something and she couldn’t refuse. He’s a man + he’s the boss.
The moment he disagrees with her stating that: “Women are allowed to be paid a lower wage than men” is a key moment.
This argument is:
a way of freeing the bosses’ of guilt
A depiction of the common idea of the role of women between both the Political power and the economy
This scene showing the female secretary of State (Barbara) is very powerful. It shows that a woman had to work very hard to
reach that social position surrounded by men (whom she controls). When she is lecturing them, it shows that no matter
gender you are, you either do a good or terrible job. She had to work hard to be there while they just had to be men. So they
would be the actual “unskilled workers”.
So for the first time in the movie we have a woman in power, and the two assistants (so a supposed inferior social position)
are quite scared of her but still feel entitled to say something when she asks “what have you been doing since 1966”. So there
we have again a social border and a gender border linked together, and that is how things worked and how they were
supposed to be. It wasn’t even questioned.
The metal gate when they start striking and the signs would represent both the physical and psychological barrier that
separates the world of the industry and the employees’ world because of the gender barrier but also because of this
“skilled/unskilled” barrier.
c) US/UK conception of business: Young modernity/Old tradition
To introduce this part, we know that Ford Motor Company is an American multinational automaker and its founder Henry
Ford introduced the concept of Fordism. (It was extending Henry Ford’s argument that we didn’t only need to produce goods
for the masses, but also that the masses had enough income to buy them. This was a major innovation at that time. So the
theory would be that there would be a balance among capital, labour, and the government that would be called a corporate
At the beginning of the movie, there’s a sort of utopian presentation of the city of Dagenham (almost exactly like the one we
can find before The Full Monty) with:
Background music
bright colours
an entertaining voiceover
people smiling, crowded places
Ford manufacture. Tag-line: “One of the greatest anvils of the motor industry.”
This is an important choice from the filmmaker because it would depict Dagenham as a pillar of Britain’s industry. It also
represents the context during the 60’s, which is the development of the consumption society.
So Ford Company wished to extend this concept worldwide in every Ford factory. The work is assembly-line work.
However, there are theories stating that this diffusion was incomplete because British management was distinct from the
American model:
Because European markets would have been were too small and that skilled labour (so no large nonproductive class) was too abundant and cheap to make the new system of production cost effective (so
no consumption of mass produced goods.)
Because of the different attitudes of the British and the Americans to the role of individuals and groups
in society.
In Britain, loyalty to groups remained an important feature of social and economic life, a response to the
limited shifts toward democracy in the nineteenth century and reinforced by the persistence of social
stratification and the class organization of society.
KEY SEQUENCE : 20:15 TO 22:41
In the United States, on the other hand, eighteenth century political reforms weakened individual adherence and loyalty to
groups. American employers were forced to contend with a more individualistic approach, hence closing the door to selfregulation based on group norms. In its place was substituted governance by rules enforced by a central authority, the model
of power which would ultimately be captured by the Fordist system. Burrage used this model to suggest why both British
workers and employers might resist American organizational methods.
At 19:50= All the big bosses wear quite modern suits, sign of higher class, compared to the British bosses
One of the bosses goes: “I understand.” While he clearly doesn’t realize what’s going on = it is typical of what usually
happens in work conflicts.
The looks they give is really important, they look away not to have any form of commitment towards the women.
There’s a strong opposition regarding the vision of business/management:
Old bosses: stick to tradition, old values of friendship and respect
Young bosses: Only interested by profits, no moral values but efficiency
The Young bosses say that they’ll replace some workers by machines anyway but try to make a deal by saying that they’ll
make sure to listen to the girls complaints. Here again it is a typical phase of the strike = the establishment of a possible deal
(1:14) between the two parties. They claim they will “listen” to their complaints, the word listen has been carefully chosen
because it discharges them of any real/actual engagement of solving issues.
The way Rita pulled out the fabric (not staged) to fend for the women, shows how she is meant to be a leader. And the bosses
are scared so they look away
The peak point is when the issues reach the boss’ office and even the American headquarters at 30:33: “It’s the women.” =
This sentence is extremely important and reveals the women’s condition. As if they were only a detail in the working
process. They’ve now realized that what they thought was not a problem becomes their problem. So that means that the norm
was for the American bosses not to care until the problem is not only affecting other sectors, but their own income
42:28: MOG’s demand for equal pay is revolutionary.
The boss asking “What?” suggests that as a man he assumes that being paid more is the norm. MOG saying “because that’s
what it’s all about after all” shows how the boss really didn’t see the whole point of the women’s actions. He has considered
it just like other men did:
as not affecting him
nor the company.
The other phase of the strike is intimidation of the smallest group.
The boss who summoned Mr Dawson gives him a bad argument quoting Karl Marx, the pioneer of socialism.
He said that on purpose to blame him for his stances regarding the women’s strike.
The interpretation made from Marx’s idea is revealing how the American bosses’ vision of how the society should work.
The filmmaker has made an interesting choice to put this scene because during the 1960’s, there is Red Scare (fear of
spreading communism) with the actions Senator McCarthy really pressuring American bosses so that they do not tolerate
any deviant behaviours.
Here the idea of “progress” as
social progress maybe doesn’t
match the bosses’ idea of
progress as productivity and
The ambiguity on the use of the word “men” in Marx is really important to understand the ideology of the 1960’s. The boss
suggests that only males can make the society better while Mr Dawson suggest that it refers to the human species. Plus, the
debate is interesting because Mr Dawson mentions what Marx said about women at 45:13 and how they can make the society
better. It is also interesting because equal pay is still not achieved in many countries worldwide.
American bosses disregard British bosses, and give wrong evidence that giving equal pay would make the economy collapse.
2) The election of a Leader
a) Rita umbrella : doesn’t expect to be leader
One person is missing for the speech against the bosses, the umbrella is a key element in the movie. It is on top of Rita is an
important element chosen by the filmmaker = umbrella protects from rain, and rain symbolizes despair.
1.17 Other stage = the leader is overwhelmed by pressure and wants to stop.
When Mr Dawson said to her “And you came.”, Mrs O’Gready’s look changed and appeared confused because she doesn’t
consider herself as a leader. Her modesty is what makes her even a best leader.
Rita’s innocence and inferiority at first
b) Rita’s abilities to be a leader compared to others
At the café with Albert, Connie and Mounty, Mounty teaches Rita how not answer “I’ll answer for you.” Because they just
assume women can’t interpret the bosses’ strategy to get what they want, or that they don’t have enough knowledge: “Got
it?” *smiles*
But what they don’t know is that Rita is actually even cleverer when it comes to being an orator because she always thinks
about her discourse and the strategies she’ll use.
At the beginning we learn Mrs O’Gready (Rita) has issues with her son because the male teacher beats him. He accused
Rita of being a bad mother while she’s a very busy housewife+worker. In this scene, we can see that Rita doesn’t agree with
him and wishes to talk back, but thinks about the consequences and what’s best for her family.
The way Rita pulled out the fabric (not staged) to fend for the women, shows how she is meant to be a leader. KEY
SEQUENCE : 20:15 TO 22:41
When Albert goes to congratulates her while thinking it has been staged really shows how men don’t realize how some
people have natural abilities to be a leader despite their gender.
After the protest She asks him about how much the fight is important to him, and he answers that women have a very
important place in his life through their actions despite difficulties, and that he can’t consider them being inferior.
What is important to notice is that in the movie, the only character that really rallies Mrs O’Gready’s cause is
the man who has experienced women’s life. The other who didn’t can’t understand so they just consider
themselves as superior and as if what’s happening couldn’t really affect them.
Mr Dawson “we need to talk before coming” = “they’re ready for you now” = As usual, MOG is a great orator
1:39 = Rita even dares to say “no” to Barbara.
3) The different visions of solving an issue within the minority
a) An excited minority at first but doubts
Beginning of the strike. Miss O’Gready carrying signs. There many chairs, so that means they’re determined to get what they
want. It is sunny, and it is a decision of the filmmaker so that it could really bring this joyful atmosphere and convey the idea
of hope. It contrast the grey English sky that usually goes with sadness and despair.
But there aren’t enough people at first to make it work, so they believe that it will NEVER work
(Other detail: the use of colours here: 1960’s period, reminds us of the old cameras and pictures we could find of this period)
Women go home after the protest because of the rain. The rain comes back after the sunny episode = filmmaker aimed to
show the different difficulties of what a fight is like.
They’re all leaving saying they also got things to do. The other lady saying “you’ve done a good job” is significant because it
could indicate a sign of lost hope in the ladies’ actions. At first glance, we could say that the past tense is used to describe
what they just did, but it could represent the fact that the other lady thinks the fight is already over and lost.
At 31:48 : Mrs O’Gready ending up carrying the signs back really highlights how she is the only one willing to really fight
and who really believes in it.
At 42:01: The main boss says to just “ignore” the threat that the girls have received. This is a depiction of the way women
should act while facing difficulties according to men. It shows how their concerns are not taken into consideration by the
headquarters bosses but also within their own group.
Even though the ladies doubt about their actions, the sectors of the industry are connected so the small group made a big
difference because it slowed down all the working process, so it makes men rally their cause.
However, The male workers blame MOG because they work and she doesn’t = typical phase of strike. Men = breadwinners
b) Division pacifist/radical
There is an ambivalent vision of the way of dealing conflict in any society, and also here:
Passive/pacifist manner = Mounty and Connie
Radical/violent = Albert and Rita
The argument between Albert and Mounty shows how Mounty is conscious about the consequences of the strike while
Albert isn’t. Mounty blames Albert for the women’s actions. It’s again a way to be free of guilt, and it is a very selfish
technique to keep his position (that means being superior to women) in the industry
At 23:35: The filmmaker makes Mounty walk away. It is very symbolic. It’s a way for him not to have any responsibility.
(“He’s acting like Jane Fonda” = really strong activist at the time and still today)
The rain isn’t stopping and the blond Lady asks Rita in the car if she could write a letter of complaints about Mrs Clarks to
the headmaster. Rita’s surprised looks show how it is difficult to accept the consequences of the strike and the personal
responsibilities she has in her family and at work.
The ladies are making fun of Brian, but this is however a bad strategy because this shaming situation is what they actually
live with men. It reveals to be counter-productive. They assumed that everything was going quite alright (which is one of the
phases of a strike). But it turns to be the opposite, and Connie suddenly turns around to suggest that it is MOG’s fault. The
other phase of a strike is the deterioration of the relationship between the leader and its supporters.
The repetitive arguments between Connie and Rita show again the opposition of mindsets
c) But same values (friendship and honesty) so resolution
The ladies are all happy. Men are cheering them up like the man who brings a water bottle to his wife. We can say
solidarity is a value that is very important.
However, Mr Dawson is very important character in the movie because he is a trustworthy person for Mrs O’Gready
because he has the most important quality to Mrs O’Gready: honesty. (episode when he tells why women earn less
money than men)
Rita’s husband makes a promise to his little girl, but Rita interferes saying “don’t promise things you can’t give” =
honesty is a key value for Rita and will play an important role in the movie.
At 24:24= the argument between Connie and Rita shows again the opposition of the two visions of dealing with
conflict. However, Honesty is an important value to Connie too, that’s why even though she doesn’t participate as
actively as Rita in the fight, she insists on always telling her the truth. She’s always standing by her side (not only
metaphorically but also in the movie)
Ladies are going back to work with happiness. Connie however first appears mad about the situation, ignoring MOG. But
finally stands with her. It is a big step because she was the one who first opted for a more pacifist type of action.
MOG finds out about Sandra. Sandra is ashamed but Rita forgives her.