BY LAFAYETTE WATERS, STAFF WRITERS
The movie, North Country, is about a woman named Josey Ames. Josey is married with two children. She has problems with her husband and decides to move away to see if
she can support herself and her children. Throughout her journey, she faces a lot of adversity at her job. Josey and her fellow female coworkers work for a steel mining company which is thought to be a “man’s job”. The movie is focused on the harassment of women at this company. North Country reveals societies’ view on gender roles, as well as the harsh sexual harassment that occurs in Josey’s life.
Throughout the movie, gender roles were a big factor in decision making for many of the characters. Early in the movie, Josey reveals to her father, Hank, who works at the company she is applying for, that she wants to work there. Hank then responds critically, asking if she wants to be a lesbian because of her career choice. His response revealed the many ideas society has about gender roles. He was an “old-fashioned” man, whose wife believes in the specific gender roles set at those times. Even the men at work show their disappointment with a woman working at the same job as them. They feel that the women belong at home or at some other job, and they believe that they are taking jobs away from other men. The men at the company do not keep their hostile emotions a secret. They were very adamant on letting the female workers know they were not welcome.
The women that worked at the steel mine were treated unfairly and unequally. The whole movie is based on a court case in which Josey is suing the company for treating women unequally. The harassment started immediately after Josey arrived at work. The majority of sexual harassment in the movie is labeled as hostile harassment. Hostile sexual harassment is defined as when the workplace becomes threatening and the victims feels as if they might be harmed whether by rape, death, inappropriate touching or hurtful language. In the movie, Josey and her female coworker’s experience all of these. For example, on the day Josey first arrived. She saw her ex-boyfriend Bobby Sharp, whose first words to the group of females was “which of these girls is gonna be my [explicative]?” Most of the men there do not respect the women. They wrote derogatory words on the walls and in the women’s locker room. An example of when Josey felt uncomfortable was when she was led to a part of the workplace that was secluded and very high up in the air. She was isolated with a man and he tried to take advantage of her because she had nowhere to go. Fearing for her life, she had to fight to get him off of her. Furthermore, she starts begins to attempt to try to convince her female coworkers that they should say something about the unfair treatment at the workplace. They object because they are scared that the men will retaliate even more and, of course, they do. Time passes and things start to get worse as Josey tries to fight for better work conditions. There is also a small amount of the other type of sexual harassment which is quid pro quo. This type of harassment is where someone makes a “this for that” type of request, usually involving a service for a sexual favor. One example in the movie is when one of the female workers goes to a board meeting to request for more port-a-potties at work, and then the man says he can do it if she does him a favor.
Josey’s battle with discrimination in the workplace pays off in the end when she finally wins her court case. She ultimately convinces enough women working there to stand up against the company. The movie does an outstanding job of showing the vulgarity of sexual harassment that can happen. A powerful message is received with the harsh reality of the story line. It is evident that gender roles truly do affect the way people act towards others, and that sexual harassment can be a real issue in the workplace.