Made in Dagenham is based on the true events of the Ford sewing machinists’ strike of 1968, which eventually led in 1970 to the Equal Pay Act.
Okay, so it’s a little simplistic over the core issues, but its head and heart was in exactly the right place for a mainstream audience. It’s a feel-good film – and demanding equal pay for women in the face of corporate lies (“We’ll have to move production”; “We’ll have to reduce everyone’s wages just to make up for it”) is precisely the kind of thing everyone can feel good about (unless you’re a Tory MP). The women’s movement in the film does a very good job of navigating not only the kinds of right wing propaganda used to keep them in place, but also shows the women resisting the pressure from union bosses and the media. It does all this without a hint of misandry, too, which would have been easy to slip into (and understandable, in fact).
The film is seen through the eyes of Rita (Sally Hawkins) who rapidly goes from working mother to leading the women’s movement. She was incredibly charming and the audience could warm to her instantly. Her change from shyness and timidity to strength and determination was admirable. There was plenty of tongue-in-cheek British humour, and a wonderful cast – notably Miranda Richardson as Barbara Castle; Rosamond Pike as the under-appreciated wife of one of the Ford bosses; and the sensitive Bob Hoskins, playing a minor union official who lends his support to the equal pay movement.
As Rita tells her husband: “It’s rights not privileges. It’s that bloody easy, it really is.” There should be no reward for men doing the right thing with regards to women – it’s the bare minimum.