Recently, the original cast and producers of “9 to 5” decided to make a sequel to the groundbreaking 1980 blockbuster. Its Grammy-winning theme by Dolly Parton became an anthem for working women across classes, and the film itself illuminated the sexism embedded in American work culture as well as the empowering tactics female workers could deploy — from redecorating to self-defense to even kidnapping the boss.
Although the film is almost 40 years old, the sexual harassment and gender inequality experienced by women in it still resonate today. In “9 to 5,” the patriarchy dominated work, and as #MeToo has revealed over the past year, it still does. Exposing the similarities between this 1980 film and the lives of American working women today can help advance efforts to eradicate the sexism that continues to pervade the workplace.
Before “9 to 5” was a movie, it was the name of a real-life clerical workers’ advocacy group at Harvard University. This organization, which by the mid-1970s expanded into Boston, was one of many groups working to achieve more respect, better working conditions and higher pay for women. Taking advantage of the 1960s-era laws expanding working women’s rights — the 1963 Equal Pay Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII of which prohibited sex discrimination in employment — female employees and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission fought pay disparities nationwide through the 1970s, winning discrimination lawsuits against corporations such as AT&T and unions such as the United Steelworkers of America.