Dame Margaret Thatcher: Women, Power and Politics

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Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has been excoriated this week in a way that makes no sense.

After all, she was a duly elected official who served her term in office in a way that received approval from a good number of the people she governed. Nothing in her governance that I know of lends itself to the unseemly, downright crude behavior that has followed her death.

Jessica Hof, who blogs at All Around the Watchtower, wrote an interesting post, Women, Power and Politics, which was published on nebraskenergyobservor, taking the Iron Lady’s attackers to task.

I’ve been disturbed by the viciousness of the post-mortem attacks on Dame Thatcher myself. I saw a photo of one sign (which was held by a woman) proclaiming “Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead.” If anyone dared to use language that caricatured African Americans in this way when speaking of President Obama, they would be rightly criticized and shamed for it. However, as usual, when the object of this sort of thing is a woman, no one remarks on it.

Here is Jessica’s fine post in its entirely. Published with permission.

Women and power

by JessicaHof

womenandpowerWe live in a society in which men still dominate the political scene. Relax, this isn’t the prelude to a rant about how unfair that is – quite the opposite. Politics takes the sort of dedication which the gender which does obsession with stuff well has in spades. From my limited experience, men quite like power and they don’t, on the whole, regret (much) the loss of family time which it necessitates. Men seem happy to put the time and the effort in, so I see no reason why they shouldn’t reap the rewards.

When Mr Blair became Prime Minister he came to office with a lot of new female MPs, and we were told that a new era had opened. Well, nearly twenty years on, little has changed. Few of those women have got on in politics, and they have not inspired a new generation of women to try their hand.  It does not seem how hard feminists try, women don’t want to play that game. Sure, you’ll get some women who want to do it, but the idea that most women want to do it seems, by the evidence, to be wrong.

Maybe that’s why there is an unpleasant tine of misogyny in some of the leftist criticisms of Mrs Thatcher. Would anyone be calling a dead Tony Blair a ‘warlock’, and what, pray, is the male equivalent of ‘the bitch’. It is hard not to see in some of this a sense by men (and some women) that there was something fundamentally wrong in Mrs T even being in power.

A difficult one for the Left of course. They are supposed to be in favour of equal opportunity and female empowerment – and there was Mrs Thatcher, who was very powerful and owed nothing to equal opps.  She took on the men at their own game and she was better at it. That may lead a woman like Glenda Jackson (whose idea of empowerment was to run round in the nude in a Ken Russell film) to say she wasn’t her idea of what a woman should be, but that is more evidence, were any more needed, of the inability of leftist women to actually understand the majority of their own sex. Most of us don’t want to be men. We like men, we think they are wonderful, and we know that properly handled, they are God’s greatest gift. But there’s a whole art in that :)

Mrs Thatcher never pretended to be like men. She used her femininity as a powerful weapon. She knew that most men like a good-looking woman, and that being strong, efficient and capable are no bars to being attractive. By all accounts, she was perfectly capable of flirting with Mr Reagan, and even the socialist Mitterrand was struck by her combination of the mouth of Marilyn Monroe with the eyes of Caligula. She made her husband a cooked breakfast every morning, and she fussed over her staff like a mother hen.

The plain fact is that in our society there is no template for what being a woman in power is supposed to be like. No one makes anyone go into politics, and if you don’t want people to comment on your looks, don’t go into politics. If you do, don’t complain that you don’t get treated like a man – do what Mrs T did and take advantage of that.

  • Dale

    In discussing the film about Margaret Thatcher, which came out a year or two ago, I noticed that many Americans had no idea how deep the hostility many Britons (and Irish) feel towards her. Here in the US, we have admired her from afar. We tend to see her simply as a female counterpart to Ronald Reagan.

    But she wasn’t Ronald Reagan, who was known for his affability and charm. It was sometimes said that anyone who met Reagan would like him, even when opposed to his policies. From what I have been reading, the same is not true of Thatcher…. perhaps even the opposite.

    And, during the 1980s, the UK experienced greater economic difficulties than the US and they spawned far greater social unrest and rioting. Here in America, we tend to forget that the UK under Thatcher was very different than the US under Reagan.

  • http://fpb.livejournal.com/ Fabio P.Barbieri

    If you will allow discussion of her character, then I will tell you why she is so deeply hated. And I assure you that it has nothing to do with being a woman, except in so far as she abused it.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      I would rather you talked about her actions and let that speak to her character.

      • http://fpb.livejournal.com/ Fabio P.Barbieri

        All right. After all, I had a bit to say about her on my blog, and actually to discuss her gives me no pleasure at all.

        • Rebecca Hamilton

          You can discuss her Fabio. Just don’t trash her personally. Talk all you want about the policies she supported that you dislike.

      • http://jessicahof.wordpress.com Jessica Hoff

        First, thank you for reposting my little piece here. Of course those who lost the argument and their power deeply hate her. They ignore the fact that more pits closed under the previous government, they ignore the fact that their policies had brought the country to bankruptcy, and, most of all, they hate the fact that it took a woman to stand up to the overweening power of the Trades Unions. That she was also a deeply Christian lady adds to the fury of the Left. As for deeply hated – well yes, some old dinosaurs on the Left hate her, and have taught young people to. But they are the day before yesterday’s men.

        • Rebecca Hamilton

          Thank you for allowing me to post it here Jessica.

          • http://fpb.livejournal.com/ Fabio P.Barbieri

            And thank you for allowing her to put in a rejoinder that has nothing whatsoever to do with what I would have had to say and to add in the insult “yesterday’s men”, when it it Thatcherism that is dying and dragging down the West with it. Sorry, Rebecca, just because she was female does not make her a heroine or right. Queen Ranavalona of Madagascar was a woman, and an even more successful politician; have a look at her, and see whether you would have preferred to be her or to be one of her victims, male or female.

          • http://nebraskaenergyobserver.wordpress.com: neenergyobserver

            I just wanted to add my thanks to you Rebecca, for re-publishing Jessica’s piece here. One of the things I have found since she became my co-author is that her British viewpoint is often just enough different to show a side of issues that we American’s don’t see. That make it quite valuable, I think. It also, I think lends weight as to why Thatcher and Reagan may well have accomplished more together than they would have separately.

            And finally, and most importantly, I think the Baroness to be an outstanding role model for us all to emulate.

  • Nick Baldock

    A slightly pedantic point on nomenclature: ‘Dame’ is a personal title, the female equivalent of ‘Sir,’ so the recipient is known as ‘Title First-Name’; for example, Sir Sean [Connery] or Dame Judi [Dench]. Elevation to the peerage is a family title (from the days when such titles were hereditary), and consequently the recipient is known as ‘Title Last-Name’; for example Lady Thatcher and the late Lord Olivier (who began life as Mr Laurence Olivier, became Sir Laurence when awarded a knighthood, and when raised to the peerage became Lord Olivier).

    Margaret Thatcher never received a damehood, although her successor as Prime Minister is currently ‘Sir John Major,’ and is thus addressed as ‘Sir John’ – and not, as I once heard at Yale, ‘Sir Major.’

    For what it’s worth, the ‘social unrest and rioting’ we experienced in the UK was nothing compared to say, Watts. The year-long miners’ strike of 1984-5 was incredibly bitter, but more lives were taken by the ‘activities’ of the Irish Republican Army than by riots or ‘unrest’.


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