Margaret Thatcher, Feminism and Politics

By Olexandra Solomka

When considering ‘ground-breakers’, within fashion, my mind immediately settled on one of Britain’s most controversial women; Margaret Thatcher; famously coined the ‘Iron lady’ within the media, she was an icon for 80’s power dressing. However, rather than focus on her suits, this article looks at her power, and whether we should label her a ‘feminist’ or not.

During the eighties, women were working in the same offices, or institutions, as men. However, women in these working environments were victim to discrimination, and weren’t taken as seriously as men. Furthermore, second wave feminists campaigning for equal rights, were painted in a negative light by the patriarchal media (Jackie Brookner, 1991):

“Eighties, feminism, along with every other social movement against oppression in our country, suffered badly at the hands of self-interested materialism-the reign of the yuppies.” (Brookner, J. 1991)

Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister for over ten years, 1979-1990, and strongly denied being a feminist, or an being icon for the movement:

“The feminists hate me, don’t they? And I don’t blame them. For I hate feminism. It is poison.”  (Margaret Thatcher, 2011)

Far from suggesting that Thatcher was wrong for her denial of being a feminist, I believe it is incredibly progressive and groundbreaking; she refused to acknowledge her gender in her success, she was the prime minister because she deserved it:

“[The Conservative Government] didn’t look around for a woman at all. They looked around and they found Margaret Thatcher, because she was needed at the time.” (Lord Hurd, 2013)

By labeling successful females as ‘feminists’ it places emphasis on the fact that they are female; in the same way labeling Barak Obama as the ‘first Black president’ highlights that he’s Black. By attaching labels to ‘minorities’ success, we only serve to reinforce that this is a phenomenon, and detracts from the individuals’ hard work.

It seems the only people who can achieve success; and not have it phenomenalised; are still white, middle class, males. With so much emphasis on gender quotas in the current government, women are still, in some cases, only ‘getting’ something because of their gender. Unfortunately, even to this day, if a woman did gain a job within parliament, it would still be questioned whether she was actually the best candidate.

Picture  ©Knott / Rex / Sipa

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3 thoughts on “Margaret Thatcher, Feminism and Politics

  1. Thatcher is such a difficult subject to tackle. She achieved much but hurt many. In the words of a guest blogger on my own site: “she was a powerful and intelligent woman, but no feminist. There’s a difference. Feminism implies at least some concern for women collectively and women other than oneself, and agreeing with the idea that there are some issues that affect women specifically and collectively. Thatcher, and her ruthless individualism, had very little time for collective causes – just ask the unions.”
    http://www.rarelywearslipstick.com/2013/04/feminism-friday-feminist-icons/

    She was an important part of my childhood (at a time when I knew little of politics) but it’s only now that I’m really seeing the lasting effect she had on this country and the lives of everyone in it. I’m so glad you didn’t focus on her suits – so many people in various fashion magazines did when she died and it seemed such a trivial thing to focus on in the wider context of her impact. Also… she wasn’t really that stylish!

  2. Just wanted to say what a fantastic job you are all doing with the blog it is really exciting with interesting, thoughtful and challenging posts. Well done and I look forward to the next post

    Shaun

    Shaun Cole Programme Director Curation and Culture Course Director MA History & Culture of Fashion Graduate School London College of Fashion 20 John Princes Street London W1G 0BJ

    t: +44 (0)207 514 2283 f: +44(0)207 514 2282 e: s.r.cole@fashion.arts.ac.uk ________________________________________

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