This weekend saw the release of Phyllida Lloyd's much-anticipated film, The Iron Lady, based on the only ever British female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher. Unable to open a magazine, newspaper or even ride a bus without an image of the iron lady staring me in the face, the age-old question, 'Is Margaret Thatcher a feminist icon?' has once again, along with the red carpet, been rolled out. The answer to this is simple, no. Margaret Thatcher is not and was NEVER a feminist icon. To me she is the embodiment of everything that feminism is not; selfish, rigid and intolerant.
I wasn't going to write this post. I think that Maggie is getting quite enough publicity as is. However, I am sick to the back teeth of status updates and tweets of admiration for a figure that did nothing to help women inside or outside of politics; I can't keep my opinions to myself any longer.
Every time I hear Margaret Thatcher called a feminist, a little bit of feminism inside of me dies. Margaret Thatcher detested feminism. I know this because she told us, "The feminists hate me, don't they? And I don't blame them. For I hate feminism. It is poison." How can you possibly be credited as being a part of and moreover a role model for something that you so publically hate? You aren't a feminist by default; it's a mindset, a way of thinking. Thatcher was incredibly successful in what is still a predominantly male world but just because she is a woman and achieved great things in her career does not make her a feminist. During her 11 years in office Margaret Thatcher had just ONE woman in her cabinet, Baroness Young. She ignored the plight of women in politics and society as a whole. Of course according to Thatcher, "There is no such thing as society."
Margaret Thatcher was a firm believer in the individual; success comes from hard work and naked grit and determination. She never took into account circumstances that are beyond a person's control, which some people are bound by. She was a champion of serious competition; take no prisoners. However, to me feminism is about women supporting rather than bitching and fighting against one another.
Too often women are their own and each other's worst enemy. It is about working together to address the issues that affect women around the world today. If something doesn't affect you directly it shouldn't mean that it isn't important to you. I have never been a victim of domestic abuse; I still feel passionately about it. There is no denying that Thatcher was fierce, impressive and at times inspirational.
She helped to make career women the norm and she did it unapologetically. However, this is the woman that claimed, "I owe nothing to women's lib." Sorry Margaret, but you owe your entire bloody career to women's lib. Margaret Thatcher never set out to improve the life of women; she was there to achieve her personal ambitions and to do a job that she had fought for her whole political life.
Women in power or who choose work over having a family are so often regarded as power crazy or cold. I do not believe that Margret Thatcher did anything to change this warped perception. Thatcher actively removed herself from women's causes. She built a stern and hard image for herself physically as well as politically. It would have been far more empowering to have a woman Prime Minister that was proud to be just that, a woman; rather than one that did her best to mask herself as a man.
No, Thatcher was no feminist, just a woman that reached the top of her game. Furthermore I very much doubt that Margaret Thatcher would welcome the title of "feminist icon". It's important to point out that I do not hate Margaret Thatcher; this isn't personal. I do however deplore her polices and am repulsed by the egocentric and prejudiced attitudes that she promoted during her time in power. She was not and is not the face of modern feminism. If she were we'd be in some serious shit.
Equally, I can openly respect all that Thatcher, as woman, achieved. If I didn't it wouldn't be very feminist of me, would it?