Thatcher seen as women’s rights champion — and nemesis

by | Apr 9, 2013 | News


Former U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher died on Monday, April 8, 2013 from a stroke at the age of 87. She was both praised and criticized as a role model for women. COURTESY WHITE HOUSE PHOTO OFFICE

Compiled by Shazia Islam

Margaret Thatcher may have been Britain’s first female prime minister, but the question of whether she was an advocate for women’s rights remains a contentious one, according to The Atlantic.

“While Thatcher’s statements on women are a mixed bag (some gender-blindness here, a little traditionalism there), some of Thatcher’s blunt words on the topic indicate that she was not a person to whom gender really mattered all that much,” reported The Atlantic.

Thatcher served as Britain’s Conservative prime minister from 1979 to 1990.

In her heyday as Britain’s Iron Lady, Thatcher made a number of statements that added to the ambiguity around her thoughts on feminism.

Toronto Star reporter Olivia Ward shared one of Thatcher’s more inflammatory remarks in a recent blog post.

“Feminists hate me, don’t they? And I don’t blame them. For I hate feminism. It is a poison,” Ward lists her as reportedly saying.

Ward described Thatcher as a “femme fatale” whose “policies were an axe blow to the welfare state, the union movement, financial regulation, economic and social equality and ultimately the kind of free-market capitalist system she proudly embodied.”

Glenn Greenwald of Brtian’s Guardian newspaper echoed Ward’s sentiments when he wrote, “Whatever else may be true of her, Thatcher engaged in incredibly consequential acts that affected millions of people around the world.”

Greenwald was referring to a number of Thatcher statements and policies that rejected labour movements in Britain, rebuked the political left, and shunned global political causes such as the movement to free Nelson Mandela in South Africa, calling him and his African National Congress political party “terrorists.”

But not everyone was critical of her leadership.

Rita Panahi of the Australian newspaper, Herald Sun, wrote,”Thatcher should be celebrated by feminists as a trailblazer who succeeded against insurmountable odds to lead Great Britain from financial ruin to stability, prosperity, and hope.”

Panahi explained that Thatcher’s comment about hating feminism was more about her commitment to “action, not rhetoric” and that Thatcher had done “a great deal for women’s rights, including increasing funding for state schools, the NHS [National Health Service] as well as employment and training for women.”

Despite the opposing views on Thatcher as a model for the advancement of women, the fact remains that she struggled to gain dominance in a field historically commandeered by men, Panahi wrote.

“And she did it without making gender an issue,” said Panahi. “There were no quotas, no self-serving misogyny speeches, no victimhood statements; just a determination to get the job done.”