Friday, 12 April 2013

We need to talk about Margaret

Unless you have been living in a hole for the last four days, you will be very much aware that Margaret Thatcher has passed away. As usual, when any big news story breaks, I went straight to Twitter to see what the masses were saying (and to look for some hilarious puns - I do love a good political pun!). To my absolute horror the first tweet I read about Thatcher was mourning the loss of 'a true feminist role model', the 'original girl power'.  As more news broke about Thatcher more and more of these claims poured in with former Sun Editor Kelvin Mackenzie stating that "feminists should weep" about her death. 

Really though, was Thatcher a feminist?  She famously claimed that she owed nothing to 'women's lib'. "I hate feminism. It is poison" she said - yep so much girl power there she'd give Scary Spice a run for her money. Thatcher was not a feminist, she is not a feminist icon or role model, she was merely a female. There is a huge difference. She wasn't proud of being a woman, if anything she tried to hide her gender as much as possible in order to make her way in to Parliament for example having elocution lessons to make her voice less high and feminine. Politics was undoubtably (an arguably still is) an old boys' club but Thatcher made no attempt to create a woman's presence in it. Thatcher may have been the first female Prime Minister but once she had battled her way there she made absolutely no effort to make it easier for her female predecessors to accompany her. I think it's fair to say that had she made more headway for other women instead of focussing on her own career ambitions then the idea of another female Prime Minister in the future wouldn't sound so ridiculous and far-off. 

In terms of policy, if anything Thatcher made things harder for women. Child care prices soared leaving many women unable to afford it. Yes it's true that there were more women in work but much of this was due to failing industry, leaving families broke and forcing women who had no desire to work into factories. Rising unemployment led to huge numbers of family breakdowns leaving the number of single mothers to soar. Whichever way you spin it none of these policies were particularly brilliant us ladies. 

So considering this why are so many people so desperate to portray Maggie as some kind of ideal woman, struggling for female empowerment? Maybe it's because we simply don't have enough women in politics to look up to but I can't help but feel we have Thatcher to blame for this! There are so many amazing women out there from all walks of life who deserve our awe and respect, who truly are female icons. Hilary Clinton, Caitlin Moran, Malala Yousafzai, your mother and your sisters. They are the women that I choose to look up to and choose to model myself on - not just because they are women but because they wear that badge with pride and they work towards a better future for us all. I believe that deserves respect, not bludgeoning your way to the top and then pulling the ladder away for those left below. 

 I for one would rather take note from Glenda Jackson who made this fantastic speech in Parliament in which she claimed that Thatcher was "the first Prime Minister diputed by female gender but a woman...not on my terms". Couldn't say it better really...

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