What can we learn from Margaret Thatcher? Gender, Class and a positive message

It’s become quite fashionable to blog on Thatcher since yesterday afternoon but although I have many criticisms of her, I don’t think there’s any point in me airing them when others are doing so far better than I ever could. Instead of writing history I’m going to blog about the lessons we can learn for the present and the future.

Margaret Hilda Roberts was born working-class, the daughter of a grocer. But she ended up ruling the country, making war with Argentina, bombing Libya and making life hard for the poor. While her actions were shameful, she is the living well you know what I mean proof that women can reach the top even in a world more sexist than today’s. She’s also proof of the fact that working class people can rise to the top.

By going to war Thatcher flew in the face of the stereotypes of the day that female politicians were soft. She was always aggressive and noncompromising. After the IRA attempted to kill her by bombing the hotel she was staying in, Thatcher went ahead with the party conference the next morning. Today we still have gender stereotypes of women being emotional or passive but Thatcher proves that there doesn’t have to be any gender difference. In my opinion she was more assertive than most male politicians. Therefore her life is a perfect example of why we should stop stereotyping women as passive in the media and popular culture. We also need to stop socialising girls to be less aggressive than boys. Such socialisation is perverting nature and damaging the natural assertiveness and determination of the female mind.

In my opinion Thatcher betrayed the working class which she had been born to. But paradoxically she was the shining example of what working-class people can do. Since David Cameron has such a high opinion of her – yesterday he flew back to Britain, neglecting his duties just because of her death and made the astonishing claim that she “saved this country” – then he and his coalition government need to stop stigmatising the poor and unemployed. Their benefit cuts and the bedroom tax disproportionately affect the poor and the working class.

Thatcher also cared about global warming, an unusual stance for right-wing politicians. Anne Widdecombe for example denied that climate change exists and Americans will be very familiar with right-wing denial of climate change. Margaret Thatcher proves that whatever your political beliefs, you can care about the environment.

Margaret Thatcher is arguably Britain’s most hated former politician and the fact that David Cameron seems so openly inspired by her is hardly going to lessen the hate. While some of the hate is rooted in misogyny the vast majority of it is completely and absolutely justified. And it appears that Cambodians, Libyans and Argentinians have even more reason to loathe her. From a feminist point of view, I’m actually glad that Margaret Thatcher was not only a biological woman but that her gender identity was also female. Because it isn’t often that we have cause to hate a woman so much – as women usually aren’t in such powerful positions or don’t make their mark on the world in such destructive ways. Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi and Breivik were all men. Thatcher proves that women can be just as headstrong and merciless as men. This is a good thing because it obliterates the stereotypical portrayals of women in film and TV as the partners, daughters and victims of men. (Not that there aren’t strong female leads in films or TV too – just think Lara Croft, Buffy or Elizabeth Swann. But they are few.)

So this is what we can learn from Margaret Thatcher’s political career: don’t stigmatise the poor, the unemployed or the working class. And there are no real gender differences between men and women; women are just as capable of leadership and aggressiveness as men. Thatcher may have hated feminism (she described it as “a poison”) and employment rights, but her life is an advert for what she most hated.

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