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201 June 25, 2007 Merton’s Modes Of Adaptation: Rebellion In North Country The mode of adaptation that I chose was rebellion. As we learned in lecture, people who rebel are people who want to change the means and people’s point of view. Rebellion happens when the cultural goals and the legitimate means are rejected. When the means of obtaining these goals are rejected, a person creates their own goals and their own means. This is usually by protest or a revolutionary action that has not been seen before. The movie North Country demonstrated a perfect example of rebellion through the character of Josey Aimes, played by Charlize Theron. In the beginning of the movie, Josey is together with a man who hits her. Eventually she gets fed up with his behavior and leaves. Many women with children do not rebel like this, especially during the 1980’s when divorce was much less common than it is today. At first Josie conforms, knowing that society believes that a woman does not belong in a place like a mine. She becomes a hairdresser and makes hardly enough money for her and her family to survive. A girl friend comes in who works at the mine and begins talking about how much money she makes, six times the amount that Josey is currently making. Knowing that her family could use the money, she applies for a job at the mine even though it may not be exactly what society had in mind as a “woman’s job.” Even her boss says right to her face, “[the job] involves lifting, driving, and all sorts of other things a woman shouldn't be doing, if you ask me. But the Supreme Court doesn't agree." She wants to prove him wrong and rebel against the image that he and the rest of society may have of women miners. Just by starting the job, Josey shows that she is rebelling against society. She does not take
the bullying done by the other men like the other women do; she has an attitude and talks back to the men. There was not one other woman that was willing to stand up for themselves out of her co-workers and this made Josey very angry. The reason why Josey is working at the mine is for her family, she wants her children to have good meals, clothes, a good home, and be able to participate in the clubs and sports they wish to be a part of. Her own father does not support her, saying that it is not “women’s work” and that she is taking the job away from a man who needs to support his family. Josey explains to her dad that this is what she is trying to do too, but even the other women that live in her community think that something is wrong with her because she cannot find a man to take care of her. Josie refuses to back down from her job no matter what society believes, disregarding the consequences that she would have to unfairly face. The other women miners are rebelling against society because they are working in the mine, something that women did not do at this time but they were also conforming. They did exactly what society thought they should do in the situation: nothing. They were sexually harassed and bullied every day, yet never said anything. Josey was the first person to stick up for herself and the other women, even if all the other men did was laugh at her. Since Josey is so adamant about fighting back for herself, she gets picked on the most. This is exactly what people who conform are afraid of and Josey still refuses to not speak up about it to make her point, even if it meant that the men would be rude to her. Josey goes to her boss and complains about the harassment that is going on in the mine, something that had never been done by any of the other women before. The boss does absolutely nothing to change the situation and pretty much just laughs at her, letting her know that he had warned her that this was a “man’s job.” She goes to her union representative; still no action is done to change the behavior of the men who work in the mine. After the sexual assault gets way out of hand after finding out that Josey has tried to get them in trouble, the men start getting much
worse. They go as far as tipping over one of the women while going to the bathroom in a port-opotty, the woman conforms and does not make a big deal about it, even though the episode was very traumatic for her. Josey can no longer take the abuse and quits her job, completely heartbroken that the women refuse to stand up for themselves. This is not the end for Josey though, as she is not going to just give up, she rebels again and files a class action suit. There is a problem with the class action suit, the women who work in the mine do not want to do anything about it, they are petrified if they do not conform and act exactly like the men expect them to that the repercussions would be great and they could end up without a job. Josey needs at least two women to testify and agree with what she says is going on during the workday at the mine in order to be certain she will win her case. The case begins and she only has one woman who will back her up, her one friend who used to work in the mine but is now very, very sick in the hospital. She still needs one more person. Josey’s first child was out of wedlock; she always claimed she had never known for certain who the father of her child was and she got pregnant at a very young age. This gave her the label as a slut, making the defense accuse her of asking for the assault she was claiming happened every day. The defense’s lawyer tries to use this against her, only finding out that she was actually raped by her teacher when she was in high school. One of the male miners that worked with her actually witnessed it after the teacher who had raped Josey had thought he had left detention but never told anyone. This moved the women miners, who realized that the sexual assault could get worse if it did not stop now, one of the women stand up to support her and slowly each of the other women conform and stand up as well. The case is won because Josey rebelled and was the reason for one of the first major sexual harassment laws in the United States.