“Rights, not privileges, its that easy!” Happy International Women’s Day

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCJ3Q_PcFI8?wmode=transparent]

I just finished watching, once again, “Made in Dagenham” the powerful movie (one of my favorites in recent years) about the fight for equal pay for women in the UK which started in the summer of 1968 with 187 women sewing machinists going on strike in the Ford factory in Dagenham, and ended with the landmark Equal Pay Act of 1970. Stirring stuff for International Women’s Day, which, after all, started as International Working Women’s Day in the first place. It is worth remembering that history lest this day loses its power to become just another hallmark greeting card day when you bring flowers and chocolate to the women in your lives. It should be much more than that!

I am particularly glad I was able to share the film with two of my favorite people who played a huge role in helping shape my social conscience in my youth – my sister Vaijayanta and her husband Anand – and their son Kaustubh. At a time when politicians and corporations are colluding to roll back every hard fought human/worker’s right, especially for women, this is a movie everyone must see, to remind ourselves of those fights that won us the precious rights we do enjoy, and what it takes to keep hold of them.

Here’s one of my favorite moments in the film, when the well educated upper class Lisa Hopkins, married to the manager of the Dagenham Ford plant who treats her like a fool of a trophy wife, tells Rita O’Grady, the woman whose “gob” has made her the leader of the machinists, to make history, and to tell her what that’s like:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rv2hRfqlJaE?wmode=transparent]

As for the men reading this post who are (and also those who aren’t) supportive of women’s rights, and perhaps feel a bit smug about how much they do (including poetry) to support the women in their lives, here’s a little reminder that that is as it should be!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BbjSOt7NxIY?wmode=transparent]

“Rights, not privileges, its that easy!”

Indeed it is, lads, indeed it is that simple. Let’s remember that.

Happy International Women’s Day!

2 thoughts on ““Rights, not privileges, its that easy!” Happy International Women’s Day

  1. Paul Crosbie

    Hi Madhu,Glad you liked the movie, as did I. BUT – personal history, this is the Ford plant where my Dad worked for 35 years, including of course at this time. My childhood home was 5 miles from the plant, Dad rode his bike to work. I talked with my Mum about the film, recommended that she see it, which she did. Then she told me that it was all rubbish, and that she at the time was more concerned about the lost wages for Dad, for a family living from paycheck to paycheck. I was 13-14 at the time, so of course absolutely oblivious, and more concerned with having enough money for the new Floyd album . Regardless, I still liked the movie, and obviously the results were good in the end.

  2. Madhusudan Katti

    Thanks, Paul! I do remember now you mentioned your Dad working in the factory when I asked you about the movie sometime last year when I first saw it. It is interesting that your Mum thought it was all rubbish – and wouldn’t be surprised if there are others who thought the same way about the action which must have affected wages for many families. Glad you liked the movie though – and reviews, as well as the little bit of digging I’ve done online, suggest that it gives a reasonably accurate picture of the history of that period. And, as you say, it did lead to good results in the end – although those results haven’t spread around the world yet. My sister is telling me about how the unions have completely lost ground in India in this country’s recent economic boom fueled by IMF style structural reforms. Even feminists and labor activists need reminding of past struggles.The biggest piece of historical amnesia that needs to be addressed (not sure how) is that of Americans having forgotten the original May Day!

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