Margaret Thatcher: Beyond Feminist Ideology
Upon the death of Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first and only woman Prime Minister, Hadley Freeman of the Guardian wrote, “In truth, Thatcher is one of the clearest examples of the fact that a successful woman doesn’t always mean a step forward for women.”
It seems that, for those who follow feminism as an ideology, the “Iron Lady” was a disappointment from the collective perspective. Thatcher’s fatal flaw apparently was that she did not assist other women into the kind of power that she wielded so well herself. Freeman argues that no other woman became Prime Minister after her proves Thatcher did nothing for women.
…she was a classic example of a certain kind of conservative woman who believed that all women should pull themselves up just as she had done, conveniently overlooking that not all women are blessed with the privileges that had been available to her, such as a wealthy and supportive husband and domestic help.
Freeman’s premise is typical of the often convoluted notion that is liberal feminist ideology.
Freeman argues that women who work hard and become successful should not then move on to achieve the goals in their area of success. If they do without handing out successful jobs to their less ambitious sisters, then they are “conveniently overlooking” other women, especially those who may not have the same “privileges.”
In the feminist vision, men are not humans, capable of meaningful relationships. They are merely “privileges” that a woman may latch onto if she is lucky. If a woman has the good fortune of obtaining such a “privilege,” then her success is diminished. She didn’t really earn the success herself. From Freeman’s thesis, we can presume that pro-feminist Barack Obama would likely have told Lady Thatcher, “You didn’t build that.”
Freeman overflows with resentment at Thatcher’s success, citing that, in eleven years, Thatcher promoted only one woman to her cabinet, “preferring instead to elevate men.”
Though Freeman bemoans that “women aren’t always good for other women because the gender of a person matters a lot less than that person’s actual beliefs,” her statement begs the question: isn’t that what we should be striving for? Shouldn’t we want to look past gender to an individual’s actual beliefs, character, and abilities? Ironically, wasn’t that once one of the early seeds of feminism?
Freeman begrudgingly, but rightly, concludes that, “contrary to an increasingly common belief, ‘a woman who is successful’ is not synonymous with ‘a feminist.’" It is likely that Thatcher would have agreed, if feminism’s main goal is to “guilt” successful women into helping other less successful women obtain important jobs.
Like most successful, conservative women, Thatcher never needed to put a “feminist” label on her success. To do so would have demeaned her goal of raising up and freeing the individual--be that individual a male or female. Conservatism is person-centered, and has as its focus the creation of an environment in which the individual can achieve his or her own success.
Bruce Thornton of Frontpage Mag provides some comparative analysis of the charges placed against Thatcher by so-called “feminists:”
In any morally coherent and intellectually honest world, Thatcher would be a major feminist hero. She was not born to upper-class Ox-Bridge privilege, but had to make her way in a man’s world and succeed not by dint of family or school connections, or by special consideration or reserved slots based on her sex, but by brains, drive, and hard work. Compared to her, feminist hero Hillary Clinton is a rebooted version of a Mad-Men haute bourgeois housewife whose success comes not from her own achievements, but from her connection to and dependence on a politically talented man who ended up President, a man who humiliated her publicly with his juvenile, sordid philandering that reinforced every stereotype of the loyal mate who sacrifices herself on the altar of her husband’s career.
Margaret Thatcher not a true feminist? Here are the Iron Lady’s own remarks in 1968, according to author John O’Sullivan:
...the way to get... participation is not for people to take part in more and more government decisions but to make government reduce the area of decision over which it presides and consequently leave the citizen to “participate"... by making more of his own decisions.
It would seem that Thatcher accomplished the greatest task possible as a leader of both women and men: she provided a setting that encouraged and allowed others to make their own decisions. Inherent in her leadership was the notion that individuals are capable of making their own decisions because they know what is best for them, while government does not.