North Country stars Charlize Theron as a female worker at an iron mining company in Northern Minnesota who is sexually harassed and leads a class-action lawsuit against her employer for failing to protect her and other female employees. "What Josey Aimes wants is a decent job so she can put food on the table and take care of her kids. What she gets is threatened, insulted, ogled, fondled, belittled, attacked and called filthy names. "Take it like a man," her callous male boss says. Instead, she takes it like a human being - and fights back." North Country portrays the story of Josey Aimes, a story that is inspired by the woman who began with nation's very first class action lawsuit for sexual harassment. This film portrays the multifaceted and complex factors that influenced the behavior of the characters and, thus, provides a telling commentary on gender expectations and norms within the context of American society. When Josey Aimes returns to her parent's home and her hometown in Northern Minnesota after a failed marriage to a husband that constantly beat her, she needs to find a job that will help take care of her family now that she is a single mom with two children to support. Then predominant source of employment, at that time and in that region, was the iron mines. Josey first finds a job in a hair salon washing women's hair, which obviously does not pay well. This I feel helps show what kinds of jobs there were available at that time for women. While working at the salon she runs into an old friend Glory, one of the few female miners in town, who informs her that the local mine is hiring. Glory does however tell Josey that the work itself is not easy but also that she "have to have a tuff skin" to be able to put up with the male coworkers. When Josey decides to take the job at the mine she is ready for the long days and the hard work but has no idea about the harassment she will have to endure. Before being hired by the mine she has to undergo a gynalogical exam. I thought this was very odd. In the movie the doctor says something along the lines of her being approved for work now that they know she is not pregnant but couldn't they just have done a urine test to see if she was pregnant? I'm sure the new male employees did not have to undergo physical examinations as extensive as the females. Even her father feels that Josey has violated social norms. He is hostile towards her in the beginning of the movie and opposes her working at the mine because he perceives the job in gender terms and even asks her one night at diner if she wants to be a lesbian. Also, he feels that Josey would be taking the job away from a man who needs it to support his family. Josey points out that she needs it for precisely the same reason.
This indicates, the men in the film, including Josey's own father, look on the women working at a "man's job" with fear because it threatens their very narrow, traditional perspectives as some jobs being "male" and some "female." As these women work at "male" jobs, in their minds, the women have placed themselves outside the boundaries of normal society, that is, society in which women are accorded respect. Also, by imposing sexual advances on them, the men reestablish what they perceive as their given right, which is male dominance. It reassures them that the patriarchal norm is being maintained and that women doing the same work, as themselves do not somehow contaminate their masculinity. In 1989 the male iron miners outnumbered the females 30-1. In the movies the males seem to be portrayed as being threatened by the presence of female workers. Its seems as if they're worried that by the mines allowing women to be employed there that they are taking jobs directly away from the men. I also think that the men may feel threatened because now the women have an opportunity to make as much income as the men. Women will be able to support themselves and/or their families for one of the first times in...
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