CMCI’s Dr Ruth Adams has given conference paper: ‘Made in Dagenham – Gender Struggles & Industrial Action as Entertainment’. Here, she critically considered the dramatisation – as both a popular film and a West End musical – of a strike by female sewing machinists at a Ford car factory in 1968, and the role it played in the introduction of equal pay legislation.
Ruth argued that while the film could be experienced as inspirational, it was also problematic, as the absorption of narratives of industrial action and equal rights into products of the ‘culture industry’ arguably trivialise them, with the vicarious political pleasures they offer encouraging not action but a cosy passivity. The nostalgic feel of the film might be interpreted as consigning both organised labour and the fight for equality to a sanitised yesteryear, obscuring the fact that in 2014 the gender pay gap in the UK was still 15-19%.
The paper was part of an international conference on on ‘Capitalism, Culture and the Media’ staged at the University of Leeds.