Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher and women.

I'm not going to share my political views about Margaret Thatcher here because it's just too controversial at the moment (although I will say that having parties to celebrate anyone's death is in very bad taste).

However, something occurred to me about her legacy for women. Not necessarily in the sense of being a good role model, or actively helping women in any way, shape or form (her two female ministers were Edwina Currie and Virginia Bottomley, I seem to recall - not exactly inspiring). But in the sense that women of my age grew up with a female Prime Minister.

I remember at the time there were two women on the world stage - her, and Mrs Ghandhi in India (who was unfortunately assassinated). Since then, of course, there have been several more female premiers - although not in the US, of course. I wonder if Hillary Clinton can do it in 2016? But Mrs. Thatcher was one of the first. And that's fairly extraordinary when you think about it, that Britain led the way in electing a woman to lead the country. What is more, Thatcher had two children.

As a child I remember nothing before Mrs. Thatcher, so I grew up thinking it perfectly normal our country had a (strong) woman as a Prime Minister, and also as Queen. And I do think that as girls in the 1980s we thought we could be anything - not only going into professions like teaching or nursing, as our mothers had done, but becoming doctors, journalists, architects, film directors, politicians or whatever it is we wanted to do.

Everyone who has tried to balance career and family knows it isn't that simple, of course. But I do think that whatever she stood for, and whether she wanted to or not, Margaret Thatcher did blaze a trail for women, if only in that a generation of little girls grew up assuming that women could be just as powerful as men.

What do you think?


Tanya (Bump2Basics) said...

I'd agree. In all the reporting hullabaloo of the last couple of days I read someone say that she's put the nail in the coffin for women Prime Ministers because she was so controversial and disliked by many. (I think it was Morrissey - you can imagine the words he had in her memory...) But I think that view is a bit narrow. Like her or hate her, she was a strong woman who got to the top and I'm sure that opened the minds of young women in terms of where they could go, even if sometimes only on an uncounscious level.

Iota said...

I agree. She blazed a trail.

How was Florida?

Melissa said...

I agree. You accept what you grow up with as the norm. The fact that it was a woman running the country didn't enter my mind as 'oh wow, a woman is in charge of the UK', rather, it's normal that a woman is in charge of a country.

Nota Bene said...

As a man, I've grown up thinking of women as's difficult to imagine how it could be otherwise...and I guess that was because of Mrs Thatcher

MsCaroline said...

You know, Margaret Thatcher was definitely a trail-blazer and role model for women on both sides of the pond, so to speak. She was very much in the US public eye during the Reagan Era. I'm pretty sure she ranks up there with former UN Ambassador Madeline Albright as someone who many young American women saw as evidence that you really could do whatever you set your mind to. I think it's also fascinating that there is this huge wave of pro-Hilary memes out there in cyberspace. Seems like she's been able to come so much more into her own with her own job rather than having to just be Bill's sidekick.
And, yes - how was Florida?

Kit said...

I agree - we may have loved to hate her political stance, but we took it for granted that a woman could do anything.

Anonymous said...

Could not agree more, your post is the first thing I've read since she's died that doesn't make me want to scream at my laptop screen!

Was Living Down Under said...

Yes she did blaze a trail. As young girls growing up in the 80s we didn't even think that it was unusual for a woman to be leading a country.

However I think at the time, she still played a man's game by men's rules (rather than pushing to reinvent the rules to accommodate women). Maybe that was what was needed at the time but I think women still have to make a choice between children and a successful career. Yes she had children but they were sent off to boarding school. Women can be as powerful as men but is there possibly a way to use that power in a different way than men have? Women can be as strong, as successful and as powerful as men but do they have to give up something else in return? And do they have to behave in the same manner as men to be successful?

I agree with you, her legacy for all little girls is that we don't have to be excluded from the picture. But I want to see someone come in who demands a change in the rules of the game and gets it.

Expat mum said...

Blazing a trail would have meant that she opened the door wide open and women flocked in her wake. That didn't happen. Yes, she let us see that a woman could be a strong leader, but she was disappointing in not reaching back and supporting other women coming up the ranks. To me it seemed as if she wanted her gender to be a non-issue, which many women tend to do. A real train blazer would have made more of an effort to see that half the nation was better represented in the Cabinet and in the Commons, as well as on boards and other elevated positions. She obviously wasn't responsible for all of this, but she didn't seem at all interested in trying for a level playing field.

Expat mum said...


nappy valley girl said...

Tanya - I don't think she was a nail in the coffin for women PMs. Extreme, slightly batty Tory PMs, maybe.

Iota - just about to post about it.

Melissa - yes, and in the US they would still find it surprising.

NB - yes, I think she probably had an effect on boys too.

Ms Caroline - I really do think Hillary has a chance in 2016. She deserves it.

Kit - absolutely my point. It's not about her politics at all...

MumReinvented - thank you!

Was Living Down Under - I agree, yo make a good point. She did play by men's rules, but I guess if she hadn't, she would not have succeeded at that time in history. Clearly we now have a new generation of female leaders who are trying to lead in a more feminine way, and it will be interesting to see some of them get into power.

Expat Mum - I do realise that. She didn't help women herself at all and certainly was no feminist. But just the fact of her being there meant something.