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Here's an interesting article by the always great Zoe Williams about Thatcher and feminism. Patrick and I have actually had several arguments about this: he claims that Thatcher, however evil she was, should be acknowledged by feminists because thanks to her, a generation of girls (including me) grew up taking it for granted that a woman could be the political leader of one of the most powerful countries in the world. Thatcher became PM when I was 4 and didn't leave until I was 15, and I remember thinking it was funny when I was about 7 and read some kids' book - only published in the late '70s - which refered to the prime minister as "he". To me, the idea that the British prime minister was a man seemed kind of oddly archaic.

But despite this, I'm not convinced, and I have always pointed out the fact that Thatcher was not a feminist and her policies actively took things away from many women, as Williams points out:

It is difficult to say what Thatcher meant by "the things women know". If she meant some kind of feminine intuition, that's laughable. If she meant the ancient, practical things that only women know, she must have been talking about childbirth (or periods?) and, again, it's difficult to divine any effect on policy. About the only thing Thatcher did for mothers was freeze child benefit, while at the same time castigating them for leaving their children in the "chaos of workplace creches".

Williams also, however, makes the point that Thatcher's smashing of the unions opened up many workplaces to women. Which is true, even if it makes one's lefty soul shudder.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 21st, 2004 08:59 am (UTC)
In absolutely no way should Thatcher be acknowledged as a feminist. This was being discussed on radio 4 this morning, and she was quoted as saying she wasn't one, so she shouldn't be. Seriously though, what they failed to discuss in relation to this on Today this morning was how she used to put down the women's movement and refused to acknowledge what they had done, or support them in what they were trying to do. Without their enormous advances towards equal rights she wouldn't have been able to be prime minister.

Added to that the fact that women still only earn 75% of men's pay - a friend of mine is struggling with this very very badly at the moment; her 3 years of experience, and 18 months within the same company is earning her 2k less than the guy they brought in last month with no experience - and by trying to smash the women's rights movement she was going against this. Added into this single mothers' rights, the lack of sorting out contraception laws, the list is endless, I can't see what she did that helped women's rights. She may have smashed the unions, but in the long run as there is now less people helping the workers - men and women - how does this help?
Oct. 21st, 2004 09:04 am (UTC)
Well, whether or not one wants to acknowledge Thatcher as being a feminist, I do think it's cool that British girls grew up with a woman as one of the big leaders of the "free world".

I grew up in a country where you have to be white, male and Christian to even run for leadership, so there's something to be said for having had Thatcher in office, even if one doesn't particularly admire her politics.

One other thing, though: I do think it's important to remember that a woman of her age and in that particular era would have had to play the game a bit more than we would have to, at least with regards to calling herself a feminist or raising the banner for women's rights.

I also think it's ironic that Gloria Steinem et.al. were/are such huge and powerful feminists, but never managed to introduce the idea of a female leader.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


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