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Meryl on Margaret

by Melissa Silverstein
April 9, 2013 12:00 PM
1 Comment
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Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher died yesterday.  To say that she was a controversial figure is a huge understatement.  On top of all the discussions about her work as Prime Minister, one topic that has gotten a large amount of discussion is whether or not she was a feminist.  Lionel Shriver in Slate says that Thatcher was a feminist based on her actions.  I am of the mind that she clearly made strides for women in politics, but a feminist?  Not in my book.  But clearly others disagree.

And she didn't agree that she was a feminist either.  I'm going to let her words speak for her: 

The feminists hate me, don’t they? And I don’t blame them. For I hate feminism. It is poison. (As said to an adviser.)

Being a singular woman in politics in a world still full of male politicians, she's been seen all over popular culture.  According to Time she has been portrayed in 5 films and 14 TV shows. Meryl Streep who won an Oscar for portraying Margaret Thatcher in the Iron Lady released a statement upon her death: 

Margaret Thatcher was a pioneer, willingly or unwillingly, for the role of women in politics.

It is hard to imagine a part of our current history that has not been affected by measures she put forward in the UK at the end of the 20th century. Her hard-nosed fiscal measures took a toll on the poor, and her hands-off approach to financial regulation led to great wealth for others. There is an argument that her steadfast, almost emotional loyalty to the pound sterling has helped the UK weather the storms of European monetary uncertainty.

But to me she was a figure of awe for her personal strength and grit. To have come up, legitimately,  through the ranks of the British political system, class bound and gender phobic as it was, in the time that she did and the way that she did, was a formidable achievement. To have won it, not  because she inherited position as the daughter of a great man, or the widow of an important man, but by dint of her own striving. To have withstood the special hatred and ridicule, unprecedented in my opinion, leveled in our time at a public figure who was not a mass murderer; and to have managed to keep her convictions attached to fervent ideals and ideas – wrongheaded or misguided as we might see them now-without corruption – I see that as evidence of some kind of greatness, worthy for the argument of history to settle. 

To have given women and girls around the world reason to supplant fantasies of being princesses with a different dream: the real-life option of leading their nation; this was groundbreaking and admirable.

I was honored to try to imagine her late life journey, after power; but I have only a glancing understanding of what her many struggles were, and how she managed to sail through to the other side. I wish to convey my respectful condolences to her family and many friends.

Question- when was the last time you saw a person from Hollywood release a statement like this on a former world leader?

Margaret Thatcher: The Accidental Feminist (Daily Beast)

Margaret Thatcher: the Iron Lady of British film (The Guardian)

Margaret Thatcher: In Movies and Television (Time)

Muscular Feminism (Slate)

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More: Meryl Streep, Politics, The Iron Lady

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1 Comment

  • Francis | April 9, 2013 12:50 PMReply

    The movie was dreadful (especially the scenes with the husband) and misleading. Don't call it The Iron Lady if you don't do a political movie which deals about the politician, call it Thatcher !
    Making an hagiography of such a controversial figure is a recipe for disaster anyway.

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