The Campaign Spot

Margaret Thatcher and Feminism

To elaborate a bit on what I’ve been saying on Twitter . . .

In Margaret Thatcher, we see a woman who achieved something that no British woman had done before or since, and that no woman in the United States has ever achieved. Only five women had been elected or appointed heads of government before her. She was probably the most influential woman of the second half of the 20th century, perhaps of the entire century. And yet she didn’t see herself as a feminist at all:

“I owe nothing to women’s lib,” Thatcher said, and at another point she remarked, “The feminists hate me, don’t they? And I don’t blame them. For I hate feminism. It is poison.”

One of the fundamental ideas of feminism is that most societies are full of male chauvinism and anti-women attitudes, views that demean and limit the power of women. And adherents to this belief contend that the only force that can overcome those attitudes is feminism. And here comes a woman who dismisses their arguments as “poison,” and she completely upends the idea that anti-women attitudes keep women out of power, proving that in 1979 — 34 years ago! — the people of Great Britain were ready to have a woman as their head of government. And in a time of crisis, no less — economic and societal breakdown, the IRA bombing things, the Soviet bear on the prowl . . .

So either Margaret Thatcher was a feminist and didn’t know it, or the feminist belief that sexist attitudes prevent women from being elected to positions of political power is fundamentally flawed and has been so for a long time.

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