Gender questions certainly do not prevail
in Loach's movies. What is most important is the social – if not political
– analysis that Loach invites the viewer to make. However, if one considers
such films as Cathy Come Home, Ladybird, Raining Stones,
or Carla's Song(1996), the question of gender is nevertheless raised,
because the audience can see how men and women react differently to what happens
to them. If we consider Bob and Anne in Raining Stones, or Maggie and
Jorge in Ladybird, it is obvious that the emotional response each of
them gives to events partly determines the story: Bob's desperate desire to
provide a communion dress for his daughter by himself will be the initial
cause of his troubles; Maggie's anger which is her way of venting her frustration,
is treated as a dangerous example for her children by the judges. So what
place does gender hold in Loach's movies? How is it that we, as viewers, can
feel that his 1990s films especially feature a growing concern for gender
clash, even if the main lines remain the same, that is to say social and political
Loach has always been concerned by the consequences of bad (and even non-existent) social measures on families, from the very beginning of his work. Yet the films of the last decade have brought to light a focus on lower-class couples and the way they deal with life as it is. John Hill suggests that "romance in these films is shown to offer redemptive possibilities", even if it still "depends heavily on economic and political factors". Indeed, the opportunity for couples to reach happiness depends heavily on their situation within the society: in My Name Is Joe, Joe and Sarah get on well but their relationship is not stable partly because Sarah's different social background prevents her from fully empathising with him. She cannot understand the real depth of the situation, nor the degree of despair that conditions Liam's life and pushes Joe to do what he did. What the film says is that in particular situations, in a particular society, there is no other choice but turning to illegal activities; that is why Joe is not presented as a criminal. As he says: "We don't all live in this nice tidy world of yours…some of us cannot go the police…some of us cannot go to the bank for a loan…some of us cannot just move out and fuck off out of here…some of us don't have a choice." These lines show that there is a real gap between the middle classes and the lower classes. The lines are even more powerful and challenging that they unveil a reality that might be hard to acknowledge, for Sarah as well as for many viewers, who may find it easier to empathise with Sarah, because she represents a nice, comforting class of people. Viewers do sympathise with Joe, but they frankly would not like to be in his shoes. Joe needs help, and people like him are desperate because they know nothing is done to help them. Loach is trying to represent another level of reality, that is often left aside.
Curiously enough, while most of the social changes brought about by Margaret Thatcher's politics are widely discussed and made a political issue, the position of men and women is not treated in the same way: it has not become political, and one might wonder why. It is true that Loach has never been openly interested in issues like feminism or ethnic minorities, because he concentrates on class experience. To a certain extent, this is a reason why women have been mostly associated with household and family concerns, at least until Land and Freedom, because class experience was traditionally linked to male experience. It is true that such characters as Cathy, Janice, or Joy are very much attached to the domestic sphere, while Reg(Cathy's husband), Dave(Joy's husband in Poor Cow(1967), or Mick(Looks and Smiles) are defined by their relation to the outside, to the working world. Thus, it seems that Loach establishes dualities in his narratives between domestic/private and political/public matters. This coincides with Hannah Arendt's conception of public and private realms. According to her, gender questions, or feminist issues, have nothing to do with the political sphere, and these issues should not be part of political discourses or analysis. In The Human Condition, she explained why she refuses to treat it as a political issue: it is not common to every individual who is part of the city. Her conception of the city is very close to Aristotle's; that is why it is even possible to use the term "polis". The reference to Aristotle's Politics is constant in The Human Condition; his influence over her concept of "via activa" is huge. This term designates the association of "labor", "work", and "action", the three activities that specify and defines human beings. Labor means the activity that enables men to survive, either thanks to the reproduction process or the renewal of the worker's physical forces; Work means all the human activities that enable men to put meaning into life and to sustain it. Only Action enables men to play a satisfying role in their community/polis. It concerns what Aristotle called "eudaimonia", that is to say the good life to lead, which every citizen can enjoy. That's why specific issues like women, race, or sex, do not have their place in the public sphere. This sphere is dedicated to action, as defined by Arendt. She made those distinctions because she feared that issues that did not concern the whole population would interfere with the real concerns of the city. Feminist questions mean, in themselves, that there is an idea of membership, that Arendt absolutely refuses, because it is stigmatising. She prefers the equality of the polis to a feminist insistence on difference. This might explain why she refused to consider herself specifically as a woman, to take part to feminist demonstrations (whereas, and it is quite contradictory, she was very forthright about being Jewish).
This has to do with Loach's movies: it could explain why they do not tackle ethnicity, racism or gender. It would be stigmatising a specific group of people, at a given time and place, and at the expense of the whole population's interests. When asked about gender, Loach says that he finds it "dangerous" to establish distinctions between men and women's "emotional debts",  even if he acknowledges that they may emotionally respond to events in different ways. As for ethnic minorities, Loach provides a rather similar pattern: in Riff Raff, the building site workers are not individualised by their different nationalities, because it would be risking a very different interpretation from the one Loach wants the viewers to make. If the film presents people coming from different countries, having different cultures, finding it hard to lead a satisfying life or struggling to find a job, it could be taken for a failure of certain cultural minorities to adapt to the British system. Whereas Loach's analysis is entirely the opposite: the British capitalist society (and by extension: its political body) is responsible for working class people 's inability to find a decent job, because it does not provide them with a civilised, legal and orderly environment that could prevent the abuses they suffer. If one pays attention to the way the Conservative party treated the question of immigration in April 2001, it is obvious that Loach's views are not shared by everyone. Following the Yorkshire East MP John Townend statement according to which immigrants were making the British population "a mongrel race", the whole political body expected William Hague, leader of the Conservatives, to sack him from the party. But he did not. According to Paul Routledge (political commentator at The Mirror), this showed how much the Conservatives are "tied to the hard Right-Wing".
Thus, emphasising an issue such as ethnicity or gender seems to be problematic for Loach. Celebrating, or simply acknowledging the sense of belonging to a group can be misused by anyone who wants to blame that group as a source of problems for the society. That may be why Loach has wanted to stay away from gender questions, preferring to focus on class politics, which is a theme that really has its place in the political/public sphere.
Moreover, Loach has often insisted on the fact that a movie is created by a team, hence stressing the fundamental role of the script-writer. This is also a reason why gender issues have not really been highlighted in his films until the 1990s. Indeed, Jim Allen, with whom Loach made Hidden Agenda(1990), Raining Stones and Land and Freedom, is reported to be not very keen on writing about relationships between men and women. Loach even said he was rather reluctant:
Jim's also a terrific writer, but his idea of a love scene…[…] And we said, you know, Jim, we should grasp this nettle and we should see what this conflict is doing to their marriage. And he says, "I can't write these scenes". I said "Jim you've got to try, we must deal with the inner life of the characters. It isn't all politics, Jim, for Christ's sake!".
It would be no
exaggeration to say that Loach's collaboration with Jim Allen has prevented
him from focusing more on private relationships as something which is also
damaged on an emotional level from a certain type of aggressive politics.
For instance, Raining Stones does not deal with this aspect of Bob's
family. Bob and Anne are rarely seen in private, and when they are, the way
the scene is shot is rather odd: the sequence in which they are in bed occurs
during the night, and there is hardly any light in the room. While they are
discussing Coleen's Communion, Bob is seen lying on the bed, in the moonlight,
whereas Anne is not seen at all…This scene could have shown that the social
situation has an effect on their personal life, but there is no reference
to such issues. The whole film lacks a certain degree of intimacy between
Bob and Anne, and sometimes it becomes hard for viewers to understand why
Bob does all he can to keep his wife out of the family problems, because there
seems to be no deep feelings portrayed between them. It is quite the same
problem for Fatherland: the film lacks a level of deep personal relations,
between Klaus and his wife, or between him and his son. Other writers like
Rona Munro or Bill Jesse have succeeded in moving perspectives a bit, even
if characters like Maggie or Susan do not have a politicised discourse. In
this regard, it is interesting to compare Loach's treatment of women with
other directors who share similar political and aesthetic views with him.
The work of Paul Carpita, a French director, is strikingly reminiscent of
Loach's. Like him, he is very committed to realist aesthetic forms, and he
used a lot of unprofessional actors for the main cast of his early movies.
Le Rendez-Vous des Quais, made in 1966, described the bad working conditions
of the dockers in Marseille, and the strike they made to better their wages.
Not only is this very reminiscent of Loach's 1996 The Flickering Flame,
but the film was also censored, like Loach's documentary A Question of
Leadership(1980). Nevertheless, and unlike Loach this time, in Carpita's
film, women are as central as men in the political realm. Marcelle, the main
female character of the movie, is sacked by her employer from the biscuit
factory where she has been working for a year. But, thanks to her fellow female
workers' action and support, she is taken back in. As the film goes on, she
stands more and more for a growing political consciousness, and she encourages
the dockers to demonstrate and face the harbour bosses. On the other hand,
the man she is engaged to prefers to remain outside the strikers' movement.
He fears the lack of money, as his intention is to save enough money to marry
Marcelle; work becomes for him a question of necessity and of question of
honour, whatever it costs. Marcelle wants to marry him as much as he wants
to marry her, but she has understood how crucial it was to continue the strike
until further negotiations. She has understood that the interests of the group/polis
were, in the end, the same as the interests of the couple. What Carpita succeeded
in doing in Le Rendez-Vous des Quais, Loach could have done even in
his earlier movies. In Riff Raff, for instance, it is a bit of a shame
that Susan should not be part of a certain social and political awareness,
like the men on the building site. Instead, she is described as dependent
and out of touch of social and material realities. It is quite the same for
Karen in Looks and Smiles. She sticks to household interests; for example,
she quits her job at the shoe shop to find her father and she plans to stay
with him. At the opposite pole from Susan and Karen, stands Emma in Fatherland,
the French journalist, for whom it is really too much "all politics".
Some of Loach's films clearly lack complexity and qualifying, in terms of
the position of women in the society.
According to many film critics, the fictional dimensions of Loach's movies are reached through the dramatisation of deteriorated family relationships. Annick Peigné-Giuli, in an article devoted to the place of women in Loach's films, states that women stand for figures of compassion. Her study is very much centred around Ladybird. It is true that through Maggie's personality, viewers are made aware of the terrible lack of understanding and compassion that people like her confront. However, it is a little reductive to apply this to women only, because some of the men Loach pictures are figures of compassion as much as Maggie. Consider, for example, Bob in Raining Stones, or Liam in My Name Is Joe. Moreover, what can we say about Sarah in the same movie? Does she really stand for a figure of compassion? Not really. In that case, Peigné-Giuli' s analysis fails. In fact, Loach's 1990's fictions have been trying to show the evolution of gender roles, in both the private and the public spheres. The social and economical changes that have occurred during the last twenty years have radically altered the rules of seduction, and have also challenged the balance of power between men and women.
Even if they do not have always embodied the
true spirit of political struggle, there is an interesting series of feminine
portraits in Loach's filmography. Most of them stand for damaged figures,
who find it very hard to cope with the requirements and standards of the society
they live in. Along the movies, Loach has shown the evolution of women: in
his early ones, female characters were mainly associated with the domestic
sphere, with familial concerns. This is the case in Cathy Come Home,
Loach's first feature movie. The traditional familial pattern is what matters
most to Cathy, and the title itself reveals the basic association between
a isolated woman, Cathy, and a more general concept which is attached to women,
"Home": indeed, the title does not specify which home place Cathy
has to come back to. The only thing that animates her is the perspective of
marriage, founding a family, protecting it as hard as she can. The way she
holds her children against her, her way of carrying them all the time, picking
them up from the ground can be seen as an illusive impression of power and
protection over them. Before the story really starts, she is seen on the road,
hitch-hiking. Because of the zoom, she is more like an image stuck on a determined
landscape than like a movie/moving character. One has the impression that
she will not make it, because she is associated with an hostile surrounding
landscape. She cannot stay long in the first, nice flat with her husband.
She has to go back to the kind of landscape she had been first seen in. On
top of that, the road is symbolic of the journey between childhood and adulthood.
The opening sequence shows her on a road, coming from her parents' house to
begin a new life as a woman. She quickly gets married, and viewers have the
felling that the film really begins at that point, when she has entered life
as a married woman, that is to say when she has entered the private sphere.
At the end of the film, she has failed to complete the journey, since she
comes back to her parents'. It seems that there is no transitory stage. The
type of society she lives in has clearly put her in a state of failure and
Unable to cope with the standards her family has imposed to her, Janice(Family Life) is seen as a victim, weakened by others' lack of comprehension and narrow-mindedness. Like Cathy, she is very linked to the domestic sphere: her mental problems are rooted in her familial background, and she appears to be totally dependent on the amount of affection that is given to her (by her boyfriend), or not given (by her parents). Moreover, she cannot find any other satisfaction, in work for example. For her, otherness becomes a stranger, an enemy that takes her deep into schizophrenia. Characters like Janice or Cathy are confined in spaces where the notion of limits is very present. They reflect an era in which women were quite stereotyped; they were expected to behave as housewives("taking care" women), or fashionable trendy girls (this is obvious in Up the Junction). In both cases, they give an impression of fragility, which is also true of the young boy Billy in Kes. This image is, to a certain extend, at the root of their unhappiness: limited to a certain behaviour, they cannot free themselves from constraints. Thus, Cathy is tied to her husband's Reg's ups and downs, because she depends on him; Janice's life is reduced to family life(hence the title); Karen, Mick's girlfriend in Looks and Smiles, gets so involved in their relationship as well as in the search for her father that she quits the shoe shop. However, little by little, Loach is going to show the changes brought by capitalist societies and the Thatcher government in the 1980s.
In this respect, the characters of Anne(Raining Stones) and Maggie(Ladybird) are very interesting. They mark a sort a transitory stage between the mother figure and the active woman. Indeed, they are identified as working-class women, but they do not belong to the working world. As far as Maggie is concerned, she is never seen working during the whole movie; her preoccupations still are domestic and familial. This may be partly why she finds it hard to cope with institutional structures, because she is not familiar with the public sphere they stand for. On a critical level, not only does Ladybird show the lack of comprehension and communication between administrations and people, but it also holds a certain type of government responsible for separating those institutions from the people they were initially made for. People and institutions are stranger to one another in the film(this aspect is strengthened by the differences of accents), and as such they cannot fulfil one another's expectations. This lack of contact generates stereotypes. Thus, Maggie is refused her children's custody not only because she was not home when the fire started, but also because of what she was doing when it happened. She was outside, singing in a pub. She is judged because of that, because leisure activities are not considered as part of mothers' schedules. This is why she is considered dangerous, on top of her extreme vulnerability and anger; she does not fit a certain type of social, normative expectations.
Fitting the norms is not the problem for Anne. She also belongs to the domestic sphere; she is rarely seen outside the house, and when she is, she is with her daughter. Even if she seems more realistic than her husband(she does not want to buy the Communion dress), she does not seem to be very interested nor concerned with his work. However, the sequence in which she tries to find a job in a textile factory is very representative of the inability of the working-class to meet the new capitalist expectations. Anne is completely unable to use the sewing machine properly, or at least the way she is asked to do. As belonging to the working-class, viewers expect her to know how to use the sewing machine, which is obviously a symbol of the industrial revolution. The fact that the heirs of such an industrial and cultural heritage should not know how to use it indicates that it has been transformed to meet other needs. As such, the sequence shows that working-class people have been turned into useless strangers on the employment market. The irony lies also in the fact that the working-class used to be crushed by the amount of work resulting from the industrial revolution; whereas it is now crushed by unemployment. Loach is certainly not the only one to have pointed out this case of alienation: Eric Zonka chose the same pattern for the opening sequences of La Vie rêvée des Anges(1998). Isa (Elodie Bouchez), is first seen looking for a job in a textile workshop, where all employees are women. Trying hard but failing to do a proper work, she decides to give up with one of the other workers, Marie(Natasha Reynier). In both movies, the sewing machine is an hostile element, standing for casual work. Both Anne and Isa have no training, but they are nevertheless asked to produce a perfect work. Both Loach and Zonka point out the incoherence of such a hiring system: recruiting unskilled employees, and expecting at the same time the work of a skilled one. Situations like these clearly appeal to the viewer's critical sense, asking him not to judge Anne's or Isa's inability to cope with the requirements of the jobs, but employers' lack of coherence in expectations they have. Such situations call for a change of attitude from workers. Still, the focus is really put on women, and Loach's representation of them in the second part of the 1990s has really changed. Female characters are indeed quite at the opposite of what he had done previously. These films feature single women, who know how to live on their own. As a consequence, they do not fit the traditional pattern of domestic/private sphere, as their concerns go beyond this sphere. Still, they are not revolutionary nor political symbols, as the narrative mingles the affective and socio-political dimensions of their lives. As such, it is certainly one of the reason why Loach's latest movies are very powerful, much more than the very political Fatherland for instance. With Paul Laverty as script-writer, Loach has made movies in which relationships between people are not totally conditioned by socio-political realities. It is as if characters-especially women-were allowed more space to sort things out. In My Name Is Joe, Sarah represents the fully emancipated, working woman. Even if the social gap between her and Joe prevents her from totally empathising with him, the end of the film does not provide any definitive end to their relation. Sarah waits for him at the end of Liam's funerals and they leave together. This different approach also enables Loach to give a better account of womanhood in Carla's Song, My Name Is Joe, or Bread and Roses. Sarah, Carla or Maya mark a real transition between women as housewives and women as women. What I mean is that even the female body is shot differently, as to signify a certain emancipation. There is indeed a striking change in the way Loach filmed the love scenes in Raining Stones or Ladybird on one hand, and Carla's Song or My Name Is Joe on the other hand. Bob and Anne are seen once in bed, talking, and Bob is in the light whereas viewers cannot even see Anne, because she is in the dark. At the opposite, Joe and Sarah are shot getting undressed; Maggie and Jorge are seen on the point of making love, but they turn the lights off and the sequence stops on Jorge's room in complete darkness. On the contrary, George and Carla do it in daylight. The fact that viewers can see part of naked bodies does not mean that Loach's films are getting "sexier", as Simon Hattenstone put it,  it just means that sex is presented as something that matters in relationships between couples. Loach's latest films highlight the importance of privacy, as a mean to escape for a while an unfulfilling reality. The sequence in which George and Carla go in the Scottish country-side is a peaceful moment in the film, and it heavily contrasts with the second part in Nicaragua, in Maya's native village especially. According to Annick Peigné-Giuli, Carla is a "revolutionary icon", because she stands for the damaged Nicaraguan population. If it is true that she took part in the revolution and that the political impact it has on the content of the film is huge, she is nevertheless very sensitive, and the film is as much about her story as the Nicaraguan revolution. She does not give any explanation nor any analysis of what had happened, partly because it would not help healing her traumas. The only things viewers get are bits of dreams, which are part of her individual experience. The very title of the movie indicates the importance put on her own account of the war, which is a way for Loach to give viewers another perspective of the event.
In Bread and Roses, central characters are women, and the film settles them in a political background: Maya and her sister Rosa are Mexican immigrants, and in this respect they are both impregnated with a different culture, as well as a culture of difference. They both know, even if they cope differently with it, that they are considered as different. The duo they form is very representative of all the traumas inflicted by prejudiced and racial politics(see the way janitors are looked at by typical WASP Americans in the scene in the restaurant) and dominant masculine culture. They both suffer from masculine discrimination: First, Rosa, because she has no other choice but to prostitute herself to send money to her family and to survive; because she has to sleep with the manager to get a job for Maya. She stands for the reified woman, and the film implicitly denounces the way she has been treated as much as it explicitly is on the side of the janitors. The confrontation at the end of the movie between Maya and Rosa is eloquent enough to consider Rosa as one of the crucial character of the film. Oddly enough, it seems that this character is secondary, as if Loach wanted the viewers to focus more on Maya and her awakening to class consciousness and union activism. Nevertheless, Rosa's account of her life sums up the real alienation and sufferings that immigrants like her have to face. Secondly, Maya, because she also faces masculine discrimination: she is nearly raped at the very beginning of the film, and her first job at a bar is not very convincing: she is assaulted by men, as a sexual object. Still, her energy and her youth prevent her from falling into a total and inactive despair. Helped by Sam, the union leader, she gradually becomes able to make a coherent political discourse. Sam is important in the movie, but he does not convey the energy generated by Maya and her fellow immigrants.
Consciously or not, Loach has made movies which show the evolution of women in Occidental societies: more assertive and independent, they nevertheless add a powerful melodramatic aspect to the movies, helping them to be less "all politics". But this is not a one-way evolution; if times change, so do women, and so do men as well. The next chapter will examine what preoccupies men in the 1990s, and how they cope with a new image of themselves, which contrasts with the traditional "bread winner" image of the 1960s and the 1970s.
Loach likes to film masculine friendship. Whether in Riff Raff, Raining
Stones or My Name Is Joe, the scenes in which men talk together
always have a certain intensity. They truly embody the spirit of working-class
workers Loach is so attached to. Their way with words is hilarious, especially
in Riff Raff in the building-site scenes, and their modesty, when it
comes to personal matters, is moving. This modesty, with which they try to
hide what is wrong in their lives betrays their willingness to be in control
of things. Not being able to have power over things is shameful to them: in
Raining Stones, Tommy is seen crying of shame and despair, once her daughter
has given him money to go to the pub. He certainly cries because the traditional
pattern of money-provider is reversed, but also because he has no choice but
to accept it, even if it is not to go to the pub: he cannot refuse this money.
Sometimes, this incapacity to be in control of things make them panic to the
point of committing minor thefts(except Maya who steals money in the petrol
station in Bread and Roses, women never do illegal things), or even
punishing themselves: in My Name Is Joe, Joe goes back to drinking,
even though he knows it is a regression. But he does so because he feels ha
has failed. Failed to start a new life, failed in an environment where he
had no choice but to do what Sarah quitted him for: "some of us don't
have a choice". It is quite the same thing for Liam. He hangs himself
because he feels desperately useless, and because he knows he cannot change
anything. In Loach's movies, the traditional image of the man as a "bread
winner" is not valid; it is turned down by exterior elements that do
not depend on the men Loach depicts, such as unemployment, urban insecurity
or political turmoil. Such major and massive changes in the environment that
surrounds Loachian male characters should consequently change cultural standards,
but they do not. Thus, a sense and a fear of failure dominate their lives.
Material impossibilities are turned into personal incapacities, and eventually
personal failures. This might explain why male characters often tend to isolate
themselves, and more generally why Loach's movies are understood as random
and individual slices of working-class life. It is true that Loach's political
comments lie behind individual stories. The sense of failure becomes so overwhelming
for most of Loach's male characters that everyday details become often a question
of honour and dignity. Very often, masculinity is associated with the notion
of providing. This is obviously criticized as a capitalist approach of humankind:
being means also having. This is very true in My Name Is Joe: Joe falls
into the trap of stereotyped romanticism, when he uses the extra money MacGowan
gave him to buy Sarah a ring and a pair of earrings. What was made and meant
to please her was also an attempt to recover a masculine dignity. The fact
that he should hesitate whether to propose Sarah a date, because he is not
sure he will have enough money to pay for it, is unbearable to him. As such,
the jewellery is as enjoyable for him as it should have been for Sarah. The
very title of the film foretells his attempt to recover an identity he has
lost when he started to drink, and more generally it foretells his attempt
to recover his identity as a man (Joe), a lover(able to pay for a date) and
a father(he is a father figure for Liam; he once tells him: "tell Uncle
Joe"; he tries to sort things for him; his family is the football team,
as he tells Sarah when he shows her the photograph he carries in his wallet).
Trough those characters' desperate attempt to keep up appearances, Loach criticizes a capitalist society that maintains high standards of living as a norm that must be reached in order to achieve social dignity. Those superficial standards, embodied by the Communion dress(which is, above all, only a dress) or a pair of earrings are unreachable for a good deal of the population, because this very capitalist society is also a society in which unemployment rates are very high. Yet the same standards are vehicled for everyone, whereas they are presented by Loach as being a potential danger for authentic things(a Communion, love). The criticism goes even deeper: implicitly, viewers know that these standards are conveyed by different media, like advertising, television, or a certain part of the film industry. Loach's films are all the more powerful, and even ironical, because he uses one of these media as a counter account of what is usually shown. Life is not about standards, it is about authenticity.
Men stand for the damaged figures of societies which impose standards of living, because they feel guilty if they cannot reach them. The sense of culpability, raised by a discourse to be a consumer, pushes them to act in the oposite way of what should be done: Joe buys a ring to Sarah thanks to the money earned on drugs selling. When he does this, Joe is in a world where the notion of morality is absolutely emptied of its original meaning. The thing about many Loach's films is that they do not have a morality at all, since the traditional patterns of moralities do not exist anymore(MacGowan is not in the least worried by the police; it is never mentioned as a threat for him, nor as a help for Liam; Tommy's daughter is into prostitution, and this does not seem to annoy the manager of the club where Bob works as a bouncer). It is the same for Bob: the troubles he gets into are the very direct consequence of his willingness to buy the dress. It is not so much the spiritual event, the Communion, that matters to him(he is unable to explain Jesus' last meal episode to his daughter), but the reified symbol of this event: the dress. As Jean-François Baillon pointed out,  the criticism the film invites to draw is that the type of society Bob lives in does not let him buy the dress, whereas it is quite regardless of drugs businesses. In this society, morality does not condition people's acts, and values have become financial ones.
What comes out from a study of male and female characters in Loach's movies is that both sexes cope differently with their environment. It has been shown that masculinity is questioned in its traditional social meaning, whereas the image of women is more powerful, multi-dimensional and dynamic. Loach is not the only British director to focus on the decline of masculinity. Peter Cattaneo made in 1998 a very successful movie, The Full Monty, which tackled the problem. It is very close to Loach's thematic and even aesthetical patterns, because it features unemployed men who try to better their lots. The central character, Gaz (played by Robert Carlyle, who has done two films with Loach…)faces the possibility of not seeing his son anymore, because he cannot pay the allowances(this is very reminding of a "Ladybird" situation). All male characters in the movie have problems with women, with meeting what they think their expectations are. The film is about getting naked in front of women, and it can be seen as a way to get rid of a male cultural tradition that is not valid anymore at the end of the 20th century. Gaz recognizes himself, quite bitterly, that men are "dinosaurs". The difficulties men have to maintain themselves as "bread winners" reveal the changes, if not the collapse, in the traditional working-class brought by new socio-economic patterns. The locations Loach uses for his films are eloquent enough in this regard: northern British cities were industrial places, but these landscapes betray the abandon of traditional industries. Men described by Loach belong to those industries, and changes are badly needed, for both of them it seems.
The movie calls for a change, the way Loach invites his viewers to call for a change in a broader context: questioning masculinity and femininity is also a mean to question the whole background of both men and women. The construction of societies requires an accurate and balanced account of cultural environments, and Loach has provided some rather unusual perspectives about personal stories and history.
 John Hill, British Cinema in the 1980s, Oxford: Clarendon Press,
 Hannah Arendt, Condition de l'Homme Moderne, Paris: Pocket Agora, 1994. first published in 1958.
 See Annexe 1
 Paul Routledge, "Hague won't sack racist MP", The Mirror, 1 May 2001.
 Interview with Simon Hattenstone, The Guardian, 28 Oct. 1998
 see Annexe 2
 for instance John Hill, "Every fuckin' choice stinks", Sight and Sound, Nov. 98, 21
 Annick Peigné-Giuli, "la femme, figure de la compassion chez Loach", in Blangonnet Catherine(ed), Images Documentaires- Ken Loach, Paris, Association Images Documentaires, 1997.
 Interview with Simon Hattenstone, The Guardian, 28 Oct. 1998
 Peigné-Guili, "la femme, figure de la compassion chez Loach"
 Jean-François Baillon, "Vivre et Survivre dans Raining Stones de Ken Loach". Colloque Sercia/IEP "Cinéma anglophone et Politique(s)", Bordeaux, septembre 2000.