Being home sick is not all bad. Yesterday I was able to watch the end of one of my favorite movies from the 80’s, “Nine to Five“, starring Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton and the deliciously villainous Dabney Coleman as their “sexist egotistical lying hypocritical bigot” of a boss.
The ladies in question all want one thing from Mr. Coleman: Respect. And they ain’t getting it. Lily Tomlin, the always-passed-over power behind the throne, finally loses it when the boss refuses yet again to give her a promised and much-deserved promotion – awarding it, of course, to the young man she trained instead. She, Fonda and Parton have a commiseration party, where they get stoned and fantasize about taking revenge on Coleman. Tomlin’s fantasy is about poisoning Coleman’s coffee. When she gets to work the next day, she finds to her horror that she has actually done so by mistake. Tomlin, Fonda and Parton then go through endless, hilarious machinations to prevent anyone from knowing that Tomlin is an attempted murderess, including kidnapping Coleman and holding him prisoner in his own house for six weeks.
During those six weeks, the ladies completely revolutionize the company that Coleman was running in such a sexist and inhuman manner. Parton can sign Coleman’s name better than he can, and they keep sending out memos from “the boss” instating female-friendly improvements, including a new day care center, a job-sharing program that allows working mothers to work part-time, and equal pay for equal work.
Coleman ends up escaping his confinement, and shows up at the firm determined to change everything back to the way it was before, and to send the women to jail for attempted murder and kidnapping. Just as he is about to call the police, the owner of the company (Mr. Tinsdale) personally shows up to commend him for increasing productivity over 20% in that short six-week period. He is delighted about absolutely everything the women have done – open to every change, except one. Holding a baby in his arms, Tinsdale remarks to Coleman under his breath, “That equal pay thing, son – that’s gotta go.” At the end of the movie, the women never solve this problem, although the script is optimistic that they will.
Alas, twenty-nine years later, nothing has changed. Mr. Tinsdale is still in charge, and he’s not even remotely as open-minded as he was in “Nine to Five.” Employers are not required to do much of anything to take care of their employees these days, and women are still paid an average of 78 cents to every man’s dollar. This disparity partially explains why the United States has fallen to 15 on the Human Development Index. (Notice that Iceland is number one – yes, the country that has just appointed an openly lesbian woman as its interim Prime Minister. Huh.)