Daily Camera (Boulder)

‘Still Working 9 to 5’ a rebel yell for females

Film will screen today as part of BIFF'S closing night

- By Christy Fantz fantzc@dailycamer­a.com

While stumping for women’s rights in Virginia, in footage appearing in the new documentar­y “Still Working 9 to 5,” Lily Tomlin said at a 1977 rally, “The Equal Rights Amendment will put women where they’ve never been before, in the United States Constituti­on.”

We’re still waiting. It’s been 100 years since it was introduced by Alice Paul. And the clock doesn’t just tick from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the worldwide female workforce. It ticks for 24 hours.

“I swear sometimes that man is out to get me” sings Dolly Parton in her 1980 Grammy Awardwinni­ng song “9 to 5,” a women’s rights anthem that was inspired by the 1980 film of the same name starring Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin.

“Sing it, sister,” nearly every woman who has worked in the past 100 years screams in harmony with the country music icon.

It’s akin to what my circles of female comrades do. My varied group of badass female boss bitches and friends have been at the near top of their jobs for years, some, decades.

But they’ve never quite reached the top. I hear gripes about many of their less-experience­d male counterpar­ts who take home more cash for doing the exact same job. (“You’re just a step on the bossman’s ladder,” Parton croons.)

Concurring with the majority of the world of women workers are filmmakers Camille Hardman and Gary Lane, whose 2022 feature documentar­y “Still Working 9 to 5” is a rally cry for all females. The film is screening as part of the Boulder Internatio­nal Film Festival’s closing night film and awards ceremony on today at the Boulder Theater. Tickets are $25.

While viewing the screener, I was caught red-handed yelling at the screen, after awakening my child. There was fistpumpin­g, tears, anger and confusion toward the patriarchy (or politics, in general) — but also laughter. It’s a powerful documentar­y that emboldened me to flip my script of being annoyed that I was working double-overtime on a Friday night, then subsequent­ly triple-overtime on Saturday to pen this review.

But I feel this film. I hear this film. I’ve lived this film.

In 1980, the farcical dark comedy “9 to 5” — the ultimate rebel yell for equal treatment of women clerical workers, the largest job category in America at the time — soared to No. 2 at the box office, just behind Star Wars’ “The Empire Strikes Back.”

Equal wage-hungry women workers flocked to theaters in hoards to watch a film where its subjects — Fonda, Tomlin and Parton — bewitch diabolical fantasies about how to off their misogynist­ic boss, Dabney Coleman. (I may have imagined mounting a couple of my past boss’ heads on my walls, like Fonda’s character Judy in the classic film.)

In 1973 in Boston, Karen Nussbaum and a crew of equality hungry women launched 9to5, the National Associatio­n of Working Women, an organizati­on that aimed to improve working conditions and equal rights for women in the workplace. The 1980s film, with dark comedy intertwine­d via brilliant screenwrit­ers Colin Higgins and Patricia Resnick, is based on the efforts of this group.

“In the 1970s, there were 20 million women office workers in the country,” says Nussbaum in the documentar­y. “But we were totally invisible. We didn’t exist in the popular culture.”

The film offered a larger platform for women to soar their voices in unison.

“Still Working 9 to 5,” which reunited the stars from the original film (and then some), tails the evolution of Nussbaum’s real-life movement to making its big-screen spotlight — but that’s hardly it. The documentar­y also barks at women’s lack of equality, highlighti­ng cultural movements like the Equal Rights Amendment (still waiting), Me

Too, Nasty Women, Time’s Up and more.

But in reality, as Ellen Cassedy, a founder of 9to5, says in the documentar­y, “These are new slogans, but they’re not new issues.” (Sing it, sister.)

“Still Working” is a straightup boss bitch anthem (a term of endearment, don’t fret). It inspires females to smash through glass ceilings and call out inequitabl­e and inappropri­ate behavior.

Sure, modern times have seen staunch changes in the workplace, but much of the force has yet to catch up.

In the documentar­y, Nussbaum talks about the era of “the office wife,” a time when women were tasked with taking over the daily duties of their male bosses.

“The things that bosses felt free to ask their secretarie­s was just jaw-dropping,” Nussbaum said in “Still Working.”

From sewing a seam in the boss’ pants — while he still had them on — to cleaning his dentures and many, many indecent proposals, Nussbaum said she’s heard it all.

I encountere­d a woman in the workforce who, in the ‘90s, was transferre­d out of state after complainin­g about sexual harassment to appease her male boss’ ego. An acquaintan­ce once told me that, as a boss at one of the world’s largest national oil and gas companies in the ‘80s, she was literally almost murdered by her male counterpar­ts for climbing the ladder faster as a female. The stories are rampant. They’ll always span beyond the scope of any documentar­y.

“Still Working 9 to 5” also shines a light on very powerful females, from sports to politics — like tennis pros the Williams sisters, Vice President Kamala Harris’ historic achievemen­t, politician Alexandria Ocasiocort­ez’s fiery activism, Anita Hill’s landmark case and more.

It also examines the oft-overlooked struggles that women faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, a brutal era when a huge population of the female workforce left jobs to homeschool their kids as day cares temporaril­y shuttered. Or they wore both hats in order to keep food on the table.

Through this myriad of widespanni­ng eras and subject matters, filmmakers Hardman and Lane tie together a seamless story in 90 minutes. From vintage footage to modern protests (including powerful internatio­nal clips), the film sails smoothly across the different facets of women’s equal rights. It’s different eras, just the… Same. Damn. Problem.

“Don’t put up with shit. Demand respect. That’s a great message,” said Academy Awardwinni­ng actress Allison Janney, in the 2022 documentar­y. Janney played the role of Violet (Tomlin’s movie character) for the Broadway reboot of the film in 2009.

Activist, member of National Organizati­on for Women and author Zoe Nicholson appears in “Still Working” and talks about how a group of them fasted for 22 days when ERA didn’t pass.

She, like the lot of us, is still waiting.

“If you ask eighth graders across the country, are you in the Constituti­on?” Nicholson says in the documentar­y. “They would all say yes. And then I have to tell the girls, ‘I have some very bad news for you: No, you’re not.’”

We’ll keep waiting. At least powerful films like “Still Working 9 to 5” aid heft to what seems like a never-ending fight. And the documentar­y’s muse, the classic “9 to 5,” retains its poignancy more than ever.

“It’s not hard. Like, just don’t be a jerk. Keep your hands to yourself. No one else is your property,” Amaya Smith, founder of Washington, D.c.-based Brown Beauty Co-op, says in the documentar­y. “A lot of it is just being an adult. Right?”

Damn right. Women’s rights.

 ?? GARY LEWIS — MPTVIMAGES.COM ?? From left, Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton and Lily Tomlin are pictured on the set of “9to 5” in 1980. “Still Working 9to 5,” a new documentar­y, explores 40years of inequality in the workplace. The film will close out the Boulder Internatio­nal Film Festival on March 5.
GARY LEWIS — MPTVIMAGES.COM From left, Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton and Lily Tomlin are pictured on the set of “9to 5” in 1980. “Still Working 9to 5,” a new documentar­y, explores 40years of inequality in the workplace. The film will close out the Boulder Internatio­nal Film Festival on March 5.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States