Four Women Who Divide Opinion: Margaret Thatcher, Sheryl Sandberg, Hillary Clinton And Eva Peron

In the past year, women's rights have been firmly in the public eye. From violence on social media to education, women across the globe have spoken out about their experiences and desire for change.

But not every strong, female voice is met by a welcome reception by men or women. For this reason, HuffPost UK Lifestyle decided to pick out four powerful women who continue to divide opinion for their views.

What do you think of these women? Let us know in the comments below...

Margaret Thatcher

When Margaret Thatcher died of a stroke earlier this year, aged 87, the former Prime Minister once again became the focus of furious political debate.

On the one hand, critics of Britain’s first (and only) female leader revealed their deep distaste for Lady Thatcher in blogs, protests, death parties and even a social media campaign, which pushed the song Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead into the charts and onto Radio One’s playlist.

While on the other hand, fans of the former Prime Minister’s disruptive, neoliberal approach to economic and social change were quick to list her achievements.

But however you view the actions of a woman who radically reshaped the ideological priorities of Britain during the 1980s, her notoriety remains inextricably linked to her gender.

In a recent blog post for The Huffington Post UK, gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell complains of Thatcher's ‘heartless’ professional approach.

“She shattered the sexist glass ceiling in politics and got to the top in what had been a man's world; largely by emulating the macho, testosterone-fuelled style of male politicians. Disappointingly, on becoming prime minister, she did little for the rights of women.”

"There was no serious action to remedy the gender pay gap or expand childcare for working mothers. She had hardly any women ministers in her government, let alone in her cabinet inner circle. Her feminist achievement was self-advancement, not the advancement of women in general.

"The Iron Lady's policies were almost entirely divisive and destructive.”

Did you see the news coverage after Margaret Thatcher's death?

Margaret Thatcher News Coverage

This nickname, given to Lady Thatcher by the Russians, well suited an individual who was seen to lack typically female attributes, such warmth, compassion and empathy.

When Margaret Thatcher chose to act like a man, she became controversial not only to those who opposed her policies, but to feminists who believed powerful women had a responsibility to their sisters.

Glenda Jackson, the Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, told the House Of Commons during a Parliamentary debate that many women who she grew up with "would not have recognised their definition of womanliness" in the former Prime Minister. She denounced the former Prime Minster for promoting "greed, selfishness and no care for the weaker".

Sheryl Sandberg

When a multi-millionaire Harvard graduate (who started her career in the US Treasury before moving on to Google and then Facebook) wrote a book about how women could do better for themselves, her thoughts were bound to be divisive.

Sheryl Sandberg, aged 43, is the chief operating officer of Facebook and her first book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead has caused debates among women and men, while becoming a overnight bestseller.

In the Observer, Yvonne Roberts argues that Sandberg’s desire for women to become more pushy is a red herring.

But Sandberg’s argument that women lack confidence, don’t speak up enough, refuse to sit at the table with the boys, and don’t demand their partners do their fair share has also been praised for its honesty.

According to Huffington Post blogger Laura Dunn, Sandberg’s message is a wake-up call for women:

“Above all, Sandberg's message is one of speaking up, and encouraging others to do the same. Let's embrace this, conquer our self-doubt and help others on the path to equality and success. Leaning In can make all the difference.”

Hillary Clinton

For those who have lived through the evolution of the Clinton political dynasty, the figure of Hillary Clinton comes with implicit contradictions.

As young women of Britain grew in the first period of socially engineered equality in British history, across the pond, power couple Bill and Hillary Clinton exposed the fragility and ongoing tensions of modern sexual politics.

As First Lady, Hillary was regularly criticised by the American establishment for choosing to openly engage in affairs of state.

"There's a certain familiar order of things, and the notion of a coequal couple in the White House is a little offensive to men and women," said Roger Stone, a Republican consultant, to the New York Times in 1992.

According to CNN, in September 1995, Clinton went to a UN conference in Beijing and delivered a forceful critique of abuse of women in China, using language that would be considered strong for any American leader but particularly out of the ordinary for a first lady.

But the principles of the ardent feminist and campaigner came under great pressure when her husband admitted to having an affair with a co-worker, and she chose to stand by him.

However, Hillary is a woman who defies traditional categorisation and refuses to be defined by her relationship. After running for the presidential nomination against Barack Obama, she now acts as the US Secretary of State and continues to campaign for stronger women’s rights across the globe.

Eva Peron

You’ll probably know her best as the eponymous heroine of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Evita. And whether you prefered Elaine Page, Patti LuPone or Madonna version, Eva Peron’s life is a glittering medley of praise and approbation.

She died in 1952, aged just 33 years old. But in her short life, Eva Peron (who preferred to be known as Evita) transformed herself from a poor village girl into an actress, and then Argentina’s first lady, after marrying General Juan Domingo Peron.

Her ambitions engendered deep love and hate from others. The New York Times described her role as the champion of the "decamisados" (originally the shirtless, and later the shirtsleeved ones).

She helped organise a radio employee's union and undertook her first campaigns for the underprivileged, reports the paper, and also helped women obtain the vote in 1947.

Yet, her motivations were criticised. As film critic Roger Ebert famously wrote in his review of Evita: “She let down the poor, shirtless ones by providing a glamorous facade for a fascist dictatorship, by salting away charity funds, and by distracting from her husband's tacit protection of Nazi war criminals.”


Eva Perón's Style Evolution