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Jane Fonda on why classic feminist film 9 To 5 is just as relevant as ever

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Helen Bownass
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Ahead of its re-release, Stylist discusses the legacy of Eighties comedy 9 To 5 with its star, Jane Fonda.

On 19 December 1980, 9 To 5 was released. A feminist comedy about the power of sisterhood, it starred Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda as office workers who kidnap their sexist male boss and start a workplace revolution. 

Almost four decades later, the film is (sadly) equally relevant, so with its cinematic re-release and a #MeToo-era sequel in the works, Stylist spoke to actor and activist Jane Fonda about the message of 9 To 5 and how we can finally make equality a reality.  

Fonda in November 2018

The last line of the film is, “We’re only just beginning.” What did you hope would change?

We hoped sexual harassment would be reduced, but it took over 30 years before the #MeToo movement exploded – even though African American women had been talking about it much longer. We haven’t made much progress on pay equity. Men being promoted even though women have seniority – we hoped that would change. 

The movie meant the female office workers’ problems still had to be solved, but at least people knew what they were.

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Are we beginning to see a world that feels more equal?

We’re in a real crisis. The beast that is patriarchy is wounded and there is nothing more dangerous than a wounded beast. Trump, Fox News and the Kavanaugh hearings all represent the thrashing of a wounded beast.

And with the climate issue weighing heavily it’s going to get worse. Governments will have to spend so much money in the wake of natural disasters instead of on social services; it’s going to become very chaotic and in the middle of chaos, tyrants rise to the top.

Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin at the premiere of 9 to 5, 1980

How do you stay hopeful?

What’s the alternative? I’d have a hard time living with myself or sleeping if I hadn’t done all I can to make it better. 

If you’re famous it’s important to raise your voice and help others without a voice to be heard. If you don’t know something is wrong, you’re innocent. Once you know what’s wrong and you stay silent, then you’re part of the problem.

What’s your hope for women now?

I hope women remain brave and strong and continue to understand the value of feminism. 

If we’re going to come out of this it’ll take a long time but it’s going to be because of women. We’re not better than men but we don’t have masculinity to fight over. And that gives us a big advantage.

9 To 5 is in cinemas from 16 November

Images: Getty Images 

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Helen Bownass

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