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I do not know much about the former Prime Minister, but I am curious to get a summary on her and, more specifically, if she was an icon for women in the way Kamala Harris seems to be for women in the United States. Obviously I am not assuming their politics are similar. I'm about to start watching The Crown from the middle of Season 3 and Thatcher is in season 4.

What historical context should I keep in mind when watching this?

I do not know much about the former Prime Minister, but I am curious to get a summary on her and, more specifically, if she was an icon for women in the way Kamala Harris seems to be for women in the United States. Obviously I am not assuming their politics are similar. I'm about to start watching The Crown from the middle of Season 3 and Thatcher is in season 4. What historical context should I keep in mind when watching this?

14 comments

[–] IronicWolf 22 points (+22|-0)

Margaret Thatcher is an extremely polarising figure. The ‘correct’ opinion if you are of a leftish persuasion is to hate her to the point you literally sing the song ‘ding dong the witch is dead’ when she died. She was no feminist and appointed a cabinet entirely of man.

But she was effective. She fought for what she believed in (even if you don’t agree with it) and worked extremely hard. She was a chemistry graduate so was one of the first world leaders to take climate change seriously because she actually understood the science. The clips of her clamouring into a Jeep without assistance in her heels, tights and skirt suit are actually pretty cool.

While blamed for decimating the coal industry she actually closed fewer that her Labour PM predecessor and was continuing a previous government’s policy. She introduced the ‘right to buy’ scheme for council houses which has led to the current shortage of affordable housing and social housing.

In short there’s a lot to criticise her for but she was talented and principled (even if they’re not principles you share) who rose up from being a grocer’s daughter to being a PM in the seventies when class prejudice and sexism were far worse than they are now. She was far from perfect and no friend to other women. But I think a lot of criticism directed towards her is thinly disguised misogyny.

I wouldn’t say she was an icon for other women. She is basically Marmite: you either love her or hate her. (Having said that, I personally fall into the middle ground camp).

[–] BathMat 11 points (+11|-0) Edited

I agree that misogyny came into play in celebrations of her death, but she pushed a lot of women (and men) into poverty, and I see her as a good example of someone playing ‘one of the guys’ at expert level. My dad was out of work for 6 years because of her policies which led to mass unemployment while chipping away at the safety net and subsequently we were the kind of poor where your parents argue every night about paying food vs clothes for the kids. My mum lost a baby at term because of thatcher’s govt pushing previously functioning hospitals to breaking point, she only told me years later that she directly blamed thatcher but i can see why. She made lives miserable, especially the lives of the lower middle class and working class, driving a wedge between the apparently secure ‘middle middle’ and the ‘underclass’ and making people like my dad so ashamed of their new poverty that they got into huge debt to try and avoid being a ‘scrounger’. She was no feminist. Hurting the poor always hurts women the most.

[–] How 0 points (+3|-3)

6 years of unemployment and blaming it on Margaret Thatcher? I think that might have been a problem a bit closer to home. Unemployment was high but it wasn't the same people being unemployed the entire time. At some point you go get a job that you consider beneath you.

[–] BathMat 3 points (+3|-0)

Thanks for that very strange personal criticism. Severely underemployed maybe a better description and yes he did take even lower paid jobs, which were temporary and damaged his health. It was six years before he found a permanent job which paid enough to not sink further and further into debt.

Ironically you probably have quite similar politics as he did at the time judging by your extremely judgy comment. He was initially too proud to take any benefits and felt shit about himself when he did. And he was earning well below the quite low median before losing his job. Are we also going to start blaming individual women who are affected by systemic problems for not tugging hard enough on their bootstraps?

[–] greenbeans 12 points (+12|-0)

As a working class person who was a child in the 80s in the north of England, I can remember that she was seen very negatively by my family and much of the community.

As others mentioned, her policies were incredibly polarising. She is still seen as a villain by some for what she did to coal mining, basically destroying the way of life in certain areas. She ended a policy of giving free milk to children at school, leading her to be nicknamed 'milk snatcher'. Others apparently admired her for being a strong leader, e.g. in the Falklands war.

I know she was a very intelligent and capable woman. I don't believe her policies did anything to help women or working class people in the UK. I admit I am totally biased due to my upbringing though!

[–] remove-the-veil 11 points (+11|-0)

Others have made good points so far, but honestly I do not see her a positive or admirable figure in any way. My spouse's entire family suffered greatly due to her policies (as did the entirety of Northern England). I'm unfortunately pretty biased against her for that reason alone, let alone a slew of other reasons. I do feel discomfort with the way some men gleefully and viciously hate on her (as I do for any well-known female politician men hate, since I know their reasons are laced with misogyny on top of whatever legitimate grievances they may have), and I'm always swift to point out that they'd better direct the same ire at male politicians of a similar ilk. All the same, that doesn't give Thatcher herself a pass in my book. She is definitely an example of a woman who rose to the top and then acted 'like the men' in the process. I think she was a product of her times, and while I can view her in the context of her own era, I cannot go so far as to ever consider her a feminist figure.

[–] womenopausal 1 points (+1|-0)

Just to add - her policies didn't just impact the people at the time. Even now (2019 figures), the UK's former coalfields have only 55 employee jobs per 100 residents of working age, (national average of 73). I'm not saying mining was sustainable, or even that the unions didn't need their wings trimmed, but just that you can't yank out industries that were the heart of the community and expect it to carry on regardless.

[–] dalyandot 10 points (+10|-0)

My memories are similar to those of other posters about how she caused poverty - a legacy that persists. She deliberately destroyed unions and started the move toward neo liberal economics. Her and Ronald Reagan had similar views on the economy and defence. I was in my 20's when she was in power and involved in the womens peace movement. We certainly did not see her as an icon. She was from a right wing party so people on the left male and female were against her. She played up her femininity and motherhood when it suited her but did nothing for women. She did not believe in society just individuals. I remember when she left office - 30 years ago tomorrow (22nd) - also my birthday. Everyone in my workplace was really happy - we toasted her going with our cups of coffee

[–] springs 4 points (+4|-0)

As an Indian, India is a former colony of the British Empire and part of the Commonwealth countries as one of the only two countries with majority non-european population, I don't like Margaret Thatcher.

Margaret Thatcher supported Indira Gandhi, another woman in high power (a prime minister) who was a blatant dictator, imposed emergency, sent troops to the Golden Temple, killing more than 400 Sikhs in plain sight. The death toll actually goes into the thousands and its considered one of the darkest periods in Sikh History.

I personally find watching The Crown uncomfortable, everything from Churchill to Lord Mountbatten who committed atrocities and awful awful mass killings in the colonies (personally attached to India). The drama and acting is top-tier but it always hits a little too close to home when they show the royals travelling to colonies and their condescending attitude.

[–] Triselly 4 points (+4|-0)

Another important factor here is the socio-political divide in England between the north and south. I see here that the women commenting seem to be mainly from the north of England, which traditionally has had a strong working class/labour identity and are justifiably highly critical of Thatcher. I am from the south and have very different memories of her (I was very young when she was in power). Almost all the adults I knew supported and voted for her, and remember her as one of our strongest prime ministers, if not the strongest (not saying I agree with this.) Although she, like others have said, was no friend to women, I grew up knowing that of course women could be prime minister. So in that way she really did open doors for future generations of women.

[–] McKit 4 points (+4|-0)

Good summaries from other posters. I thought Thatcher hated women, thought us weak, and did all she could to be more manly than the men around her. She seemed to equate strength with men, hated 'society' which she seemed to think was where women lived and what women did. She appeared to believe that poverty was an individual's own fault. She was similar to Ayn Rand in her views on ability and success, and ultimately shamed by (male) colleagues for not caring about the people she was supposed to serve. I'm probably also biased as her policies led directly to a close family member's suicide, for which I cannot forgive her.

Her character and values are embedded in the story of her scientific research leading to soft ice cream, with more sugar, cheaper ingredients and more profit.