Having made a plea to people on the day of Thatcher’s death to cease talking about it within the week, but preferably the next 48 hours “so we can start talking about things that tangibly matter again”, here I am 72 hours later, bringing it up once more like the hypocritical, contradictory human I am.
There are a couple of things that I am itching to address after being bombarded with questions from several sources, without and within, for the last few days. Here goes:
Q. Did Margaret Thatcher help Feminism™?
A. On close inspection, it appears that Feminism is not the simple unified monolith we want to believe it is. Visit Wikipedia’s entry for Intersectionality, and you’ll begin to see the brilliant potential for complexity and disparity between the people who identify with feminist movements towards gender, and more broadly social, equality. Further, there’s even people who identify as feminists who believe in female supremacy (aka sexists), and some who advocate posing for photos as an object and sharing the money gleaned from mass ogling between oneself and Rupert Murdoch. Amazing! Intersectionality is so important, because you can’t really be in favour of equality for one group of people, and not in favour of equality for others. The definition of equality itself, in its minutiae, is up for debate, really. No wonder our post-modern society is screwed. Or is it…define screwed?
Thatcher herself called feminism “poison” and said she “owed nothing to women’s lib”; I don’t know why. Maybe she was a bit selfish (i.e. human) and wanted all the 70s’ “women might almost be competent, like men are…maybe. Tits are a distraction, though” glory for herself. I agree in part with the idea that with regards to women’s ability to lead and succeed in a traditionally male-dominated environment, she led by example. (Do us all a favour, read a much fuller and more creditable article on this debate.) As a leftie, I believe that example was a nefarious one, damaging to many and therefore damaging to her ‘legacy’, and potentially to the future of women overseeing the welfare of a country (pun intended). Saying she was an ‘example’ for feminism overall is like saying Pinochet was a pioneer in military-canine tactics. Margaret Thatcher said things which I agree with and think are ‘well-feminist’. She also said Pinochet was a “friend” who “brought democracy to Chile”.
Anyway, it’s likely that we’ll never be able to accurately quantify the effects of anything on furthering feminism, since Thatcher cut funding for the UKs only public Fembarometer in the late seventies; a move almost as damaging as the recent cuts to arts funding that would otherwise promote the study and interruption of hegemonic culture, e.g. gender studies.
Q. Is it alright to gleefully celebrate Thatcher’s death?
A. Nah, not really. It’s a bit sick, a bit childish, and quite contradictory. If Thatcher really was heartless, as those who want to piss on her grave next week claim, then it’s the kind of thing she probably would have approved of, chuckling smugly over a glass of brandy while financially struggling people did the pissing and dancing as a minimum-wage profession.
Many people who are avidly celebrating her death are also people who advocate the love and compassion that she scrapped funding for during her reign as Conservative MP Most Like Ayn Rand Without Physically Being Ayn Rand. You can’t have fairness, altruism and humility both ways.
That’s not to say I don’t get it, I do. I can understand people enjoying the symbolism that her tragically well-timed death brings especially since her political legacy is so painfully alive, reverberating in the cuts and reforms that took effect less than a week before. Still, her leaving office was the time to gloat. Her death is a time to reflect, discuss and mobilize the fuck out of attempts to highlight the inequality that right, conservative, elitist, Capitalist, unyielding policies produced then, and will further now. Let us talk loudly, act dauntlessly, and galvanise those who are frozen by apathy, not boast when nature simply takes its course (which is not our doing to boast about anyway). Grinning whilst toasting to someone rotting in hell is not a realistic or beneficial way to promote a cause of equality and inclusion.
Ultimately, like most things in life, it’s not as simple as asking Thatcher: Yay or Nay? We should take heed of the beautiful and magnificent Tony Benn. As ever, his thoughts are balanced and respectful, duly damning, and true to his political philosophy.