Thursday, 12 January 2012

Can we call Thatcher a feminist?

I should preface all of this by saying that I am a crazy lefty who would rather have fingers removed than vote Conservative. With The Iron Lady coming out everyone has been talking about Margaret Thatcher so I thought I would add my own opinion into the mix. It may be VERY dull so feel free to ignore it. 

Has there ever been a more controversial Prime Minster than Margaret Thatcher? Depending on which side of the political fence you sit on she is either the greatest Prime Minster we have ever had, or basically Satan’s right-hand (right-pwing) girl. I don’t know how aware people from outside the UK are about what she did as rime Minister (or about the intense hatred many people feel for her) but I once caught a tiny bit of 90210 (ergh) and saw a girl saying Margaret Thatcher was her hero – I’m not sure how I held back the vomit.

I was only 21 months old when Thatcher left office so I have no memory of her as Prime Minister, but those who lived through her being PM (i.e. my parents) have made sure we are well aware of her. Even my brothers (who are 11 & 14 and only care about the xbox) will cheerfully recite “Margaret Thatcher milk snatcher” at the mention of their name and if you've ever seen Billy Elliot you'll have seen the effect of Thatcher's policies. But I'm not going to talk about her general politics, I want to add my little voice to the discussion of Thatcher as a feminist Icon (or not, as the case maybe). 

Thatcher never called herself a feminist. “I owe nothing to Women’s Lib,” is a direct quote from the woman herself. This is patently untrue as she wouldn't have had the right to stand for parliament, vote or even own property without Women's Lib. She also said, “the battle for women’s rights has largely been won,” which tells you all you need to know about Thatcher and feminism. When she asked what Thatcher was going to do for victims of domestic violence, a Guardian reader was told that Thatcher "was not interested in women's issues." Could Thatcher have done more to distance herself from feminism?

Despite being the first woman Prime Minister, she didn’t particularly encourage women to follow in her footsteps. With a cabinet made up entirely of men it is clear she had no plans to break up the old boys’ club that sadly runs the government to this day. Not only was she uninterested in women's issues, but her policies hit women hardest of all. Under Thatcher Child Benefit was frozen, making it harder for families to make ends meet. And although she herself was a working mother (in a fairly important job) she talked to women as ‘housewives’ and worried about children being abandoned in crèches while their mothers worked. In other words, she was a boring “family values” Tory: casting women as primary care-givers and men as breadwinners. Not progressive. Not challenging the status quo.

Is there any positive to draw from Thatcher having been Prime Minister? This is hard to answer, especially when you take into account all the destructive things that she did to this country. But I've grown up knowing that a woman has been Prime Minister and that would be possible for me to become Prime Minister (if I was mad enough to try) and I don't know if I would feel the same if Thatcher had never been elected. 

just for fun:

1 comment:

  1. HA Thatcher is Hitler. Obvs. It's so funny because I was thinking yesterday whether or not I thought Thatcher was a feminist because I kind of thought well, she worked hard to get into a position of power and then to an even more powerful position and, (putting aside the fact that I disagree with basically everything she did and believed in and stood for) that's a pretty feminist way to do things. Except that she hated women, it seems, and probably would have said something like 'I may have the body of the woman, but in me beats the heart of a man' which is all demeaning and awful (it was actually Elizabeth I who said that, but you know what I mean). So, yeah, basically I don't know. If she can be considered feminist, she's certainly not the kind who would help out her fellow sisters. Obviously. The fucking bitch.