It’s a big day for women’s history today as we note the death of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Here’s a roundup up some of the things I’ve seen on the non-peer reviewed interwebs:
- Echidne weighs in on Mags: “Thatcher was not a feminist, of course. She is famous for openly disliking feminism, partly because she was blind to what feminism had given her: The right to run for office, the right to vote. She believed that her successes were based on nothing but her own talents and her own hard work. Women’s concerns she brushed off like so much dandruff on the shoulders of her black suit. . . . So what is Thatcher’s legacy for women? I would imagine that she would be angry at such a question. Those women, always pestering her when she was nothing like them! She was one of the boys, or at least a Smurfette among Smurfs.“
- Note: when Echidne calls Mags a “Smurfette among Smurfs,” she’s not suggesting that her legacy is tiny or mockable. She’s pointing out that there is only *one* Smurfette among a whole colony of Smurfs, and that Smurfettes therefore tend to spend a lot more time and energy defending their position in the boys’ club rather than opening the door to and making room for more Smurfettes. Just so that we’re clear on that point.
- Remember this post from last year (first bullet point only)? Sure you do! As I have pointed out many times on this blog, and as recently as only yesterday (!), it’s a much smarter and more lucrative career move to be a female antifeminist than to be a feminist.
- Echidne also directs us to Melissa McEwan’s post at Shakesville, which gives us a thorough rundown of the misogyny deployed against her by both her political enemies as well as members of her own party. For example, “The Iron Lady” was not her only nickname: “Her other oft-used nickname, which she did not wear proudly, was ‘Attila the Hen.’ Thatcher was so dubbed by a male peer, and it stuck. (No wonder she embraced Iron Lady, given the choices.) The moniker was frequently invoked beside the usual parade of “woman-only” (or emasculating) indicators—strident, shrill, hectoring, shrewish, etc. The British Members of Parliament often launched the nastiest, substance-less sexist attacks, as MP Austin Mitchell: ‘It’s been a touching spectacle: the brave little woman getting on with the woman’s work of trying to dominate the world.’ Yowza.”
- Coincidentally today, Tenured Radical invites us to imagine a world without women’s studies programs, very much like the one Mags preferred, in which there were no women but Exceptional Women like her to make their mark on politics, economics, diplomacy, history, and the like.
- Finally, Glenn Greenwald reminds us that it’s OK to speak ill of the dead, especially when the dead are world historical figures. (In fact, it’s what we historians do!) Greenwald writes, “[t]ellingly, few people have trouble understanding the need for balanced commentary when the political leaders disliked by the west pass away. Here, for instance, was what the Guardian reported upon the death last month of Hugo Chavez: ‘To the millions who detested him as a thug and charlatan, it will be occasion to bid, vocally or discreetly, good riddance.’ Nobody, at least that I know of, objected to that observation on the ground that it was disrespectful to the ability of the Chavez family to mourn in peace.” Sorry, Marge!
- As for handbagging: see an explanation here. Yes, Thatcher’s handbag was a sexist stereotype, but it was (as Robin Givhan explains) also deeply evocative of her political performance as P.M. and of her public performance of womanhood. And it’s another reason why we need more women in political power so that carrying a handbag becomes about as distinctive among world leaders as wearing a necktie is today.