I was almost a women’s studies minor. Almost. This is a fact that my friends constantly like to tease me about because halfway through my junior year, the chairperson of the women’s studies department sent me an e-mail telling me I only needed to complete two more women’s studies courses to graduate with a double minor. Up until that point I had no idea that this was even possible – I took “The Woman Question: Early Feminism and 19th Century Literature” and “Race, Gender, and Ethnic Relations” just for the fun of it, not because I wanted to delve further in the female psyche.
What this e-mail from the women’s studies chairperson made me realize was that I was a little bit of a feminist (something I like to remind people of when I’m drunk) without even knowing it. Which is why my most recent rent “North Country” really tugged at my heart strings because when you say women combating sexual harassment with a class-action lawsuit, you grab the attention of the almost women’s studies minor in me.
“North Country” stars Charlize Theron as Josey Aimes, a female worker at a Minnesota mining company who is sexually harassed by her co-workers who believe that women don’t belong in the mines – “some work is just meant for men”. Statistically, this seemed true. The first female miner hired in the iron mines of Northern Minnesota wasn’t hired until 1975. By 1989, male employees still outnumbered females thirty-to-one making them the underdog to be picked on.
And man do they get picked on. They get called bitches and whores and get brushed and touched inappropriately. They have dildos put in their lunchboxes and have obscene things written about them on the walls of the bathroom stalls. One of the female workers even gets trapped in a Port-a-Potty by her male co-workers, who then rock it back and forth and eventually tip it over so she is covered in human feces. Aimes is the only one who complains and when she does, management tells her to “take it like a man” and even encourage her to quit.
Aimes quits after being physically abused by a co-worker and hires a lawyer, played by Woody Harrelson, who helps her file a class action lawsuit against the mining company. The other women, desperate to keep their jobs and afraid of the consequences if the lawsuit will fail, refuse to participate. Josey Aimes must face her harassers alone up on the stand and convince the rest of her female co-workers to stand up for themselves while on the job.
Inspired by the true story of Jenson vs. Eveleth Taconite Co., this story inspires me to be a stronger, more independent woman who can stand up and earn the respect that women in the workforce deserve.
Being a little bit of a feminist never felt so good.