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9 To 5: “Pour yourself a cup of ambition” this International Women’s Day

Rachel Fox

March 8th, 2012

Today is International Women's Day!

If you're like me,  you'll celebrate it by greeting everyone with,  "YOU get a tampon! YOU get an abortion! YOU get a vibrator! YOU get pay equity!" in your best Oprah Winfrey voice.

If that's not so much your style, consider instead taking a look back at one of the funniest, screwballiest and fabulously feminist takes on women in the workplace ever made - 9 TO 5. (Alternately, try belting the Oscar-nominated eponymous track at your next karaoke gig - instant crowd pleaser!

This office farce involves three women - Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton (her film debut) and Lily Tomlin - who find themselves under the mercenary rule of their Male Chauvinist Pig of a boss, Mr. Hart (a perfectly on-point Dabney Coleman).

Madcap hilarity and murderous fantasy sequences (Tomlin's take on a cheerily murderous Snow White, complete with animated animal helper friends, is classic) ensue before the ladies unwittingly find themselves in the role of kidnapper; they hold Hart captive, bound and hogtied to a contraption operated by a garage door opener.  While the boss is away the women take over the office and institute policies like equal pay, flexible job-share for working moms and an office daycare center. They even find the time to restyle the office interior and rehab the office lush!

It's not all glossy either; the film does touch on the topic of girl-on-girl hate and office politics when the beautifully busty Doralee (Parton) is ostracized and gossiped about by her female co-workers, who believe that the preferential treatment she receives from Mr. Hart is because they're sleeping together. In reality, Doralee ("But Mr. Hart, I'm a married woman!") spends her days fighting off his overt and inappropriate sexual advances behind closed doors.

Ultimately the three women find common ground in their various circumstances and become empowered when they band together and forge a successful scheme to better their work environment. As much a social commentary as it is a lighthearted comedy, it is shocking (or, alternately, depressing) how many of the themes and issues presented in 9 TO 5 are just as relevant in 2012 as when it was released in 1980.



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  • MaleMatters

    Since that very funny movie, the gender wage gap remains much the same.

    No law yet has closed the gender wage gap — not the 1963 Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, not Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, not the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, not the 1991 amendments to Title VII, not affirmative action (which has benefited mostly white women, the group most vocal about the wage gap – http://tinyurl.com/74cooen), not diversity, not the countless state and local laws and regulations, not the horde of overseers at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and not the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act…. Nor will a “paycheck fairness” law work.

    That’s because pay-equity advocates continue to overlook the effects of female AND male behavior:

    Despite the 40-year-old demand for women’s equal pay, millions of wives still choose to have no pay at all. In fact, according to Dr. Scott Haltzman, author of “The Secrets of Happily Married Women,” stay-at-home wives, including the childless who represent an estimated 10 percent, constitute a growing niche. “In the past few years,” he says in a CNN report at http://tinyurl.com/6reowj, “many women who are well educated and trained for career tracks have decided instead to stay at home.” (“Census Bureau data show that 5.6 million mothers stayed home with their children in 2005, about 1.2 million more than did so a decade earlier….” at http://tinyurl.com/qqkaka. If indeed more women are staying at home, perhaps it’s because feminists and the media have told women for years that female workers are paid less than men in the same jobs — so why bother working if they’re going to be penalized and humiliated for being a woman. If “greedy, profit-obsessed” employers could get away with paying women less than men for the same work, they would not hire a man – ever.)

    As full-time mothers or homemakers, stay-at-home wives earn zero. How can they afford to do this while in many cases living in luxury? Because they’re supported by their husband, an “employer” who pays them to stay at home.

    Feminists, government, and the media ignore what this obviously implies: If millions of wives are able to accept no wages and live as well as their husbands, millions of other wives are able to accept low wages, refuse overtime and promotions, work part-time instead of full-time (“According to a 2009 UK study for the Centre for Policy Studies, only 12 percent of the 4,690 women surveyed wanted to work full time”: http://bit.ly/ihc0tl See also an Australian report: http://tinyurl.com/862kzes), take more unpaid days off, avoid uncomfortable wage-bargaining (http://tinyurl.com/3a5nlay) — all of which lower women’s average pay.

    Women are able to make these choices because they are supported or anticipate being supported by a husband who must earn more than if he’d chosen never to marry. (Still, even many men who shun marriage, unlike their female counterparts, feel their self worth is tied to their net worth.) This is how MEN help create the wage gap. If the roles were reversed so that men raised the children and women raised the income, men would average lower pay than women.

    Afterword: The power in money is not in earning it (there is only responsibility, sweat, and stress in earning money). The power in money is in SPENDING it. Women control most of the spending. “A recent research study revealed that the average woman spends eight years of her life shopping [spending] — over 300 shopping trips per year. Men, only a fraction of that.” -

    See “Will the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act Help Women?” at http://malemattersusa.wordpress.com/2011/12/03/will-the-ledbetter-fair-pay-act-help-women/

    By the way, the next Equal Occupational Fatality Day is in 2020. Year 2020 is how far into the future women must work to experience the same number of work-related deaths that men experienced in 2009 alone. http://mjperry.blogspot.com/2010/04/equal-occupational-fatality-death-day.html

  • http://twitter.com/FoxMe Rachel Fox

    Wow, thanks for your comment.

    You can look at data and statistics any way you want and interpret them to suit any agenda, I suppose.

    The bottom line here, IMO, is that pay inequity is socially institutionalized, ingrained in many industries. Regardless of individual choices – I don’t know any “stay at home wives,” personally – there ought to be a level-playing field.

    Pay equity should be encouraged and anything less ought to be illegal. Work is work, and pay shouldn’t be determined on gender. Pay inequity is inherently unfair and penalizes women and their families by putting them at a constant economic disadvantage.

    Also, the classic family model is much more diverse and nuanced than it was 15, even 20 years ago. Basing arguments on those ideas and notions seems obsolete in 2012.

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