Friday, February 2, 2018

Labour & Pop Culture: North Country

This week’s installment of Labour & Pop Culture looks at the 2005 film North Country. The film is a fictionalized account of Jenson v. Eveleth Mines (1984), one of the first successful sexual harassment lawsuits in the US.

Jenson endured harassment from male mine employees beginning when she commenced employment in 1975. Jensen’s 1984 efforts to gain redress from the Minnesota Department of Human Rights were unsuccessful and she faced further harassment in retaliation.

In 1988, she and 14 other women at the mine filed a class-action suit against their employer. As the suit progressed, Jensen resigned due to post-traumatic stress disorder. Despite an invasive discovery process, the women won. The 1995 judgment, however, was profoundly damaging to the women and they appealed the miniscule damages award. The company eventually settled in 1998 for $3.5 in damages.

It has been awhile since I’ve seen this film. But, given the recent profile of harassment in Hollywood, it might be worth watching again. Interestingly, the only other block-buster style films I could find about sexual harassment were 9 to 5 (1980), the wretched Disclosure (1994), and Horrible Bosses (2011). The latter two reverse the usual power dynamic to portray men as the victims.

-- Bob Barnetson

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