FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The “Feminism” of Maggie Thatcher

I usually like watching Meryl Streep, but I seriously hope that she doesn’t win an Oscar on Sunday for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher. I couldn’t stand the thought of more people going to see such a dreadful piece of right-wing propaganda.  I actually paid money to see The Iron Lady, a new film that is ostensibly about the life of Thatcher (nicknamed “the milk snatcher” for ending free school milk). All I could think about during the torturous 100 minutes, was what great timing this film is for the Republicans. Just as they try to sell neoliberal ideology to an increasingly impoverished working class, here comes a movie that celebrates one of their most ardent proponents. From the reviews, I expected a sanitized version of Thatcher’s hideously destructive policies, but this was so sanitized that you would have thought that this poor, misunderstood woman was in fact the best thing that ever happened to Britain since Marmite.

The film is mainly focused on the last few years where Thatcher’s increasing dementia makes her a kinder and gentler neoliberal. This was a clever ploy by the filmmakers since it would have been difficult to generate any empathy for Thatcher had it centered on her glory days of dismantling Britain’s welfare state. In place of the mean spirited, vicious shill of the elite that she was, we get a doddering old woman who has heart-warming conversations with deceased Denis. In flashbacks, she is depicted as the only Tory “man” enough to destroy the money-grabbing unions.

When we do get a glimpse, and mind you it is just a glimpse, of the hell she put the country through – from the miners’ strike to the Falkland’s war – the next scenes show her being celebrated,  because tough as she was, and however bitter the medicine, we are assured that her policies delivered Britain from socialist decay to prosperity. When the filmmakers show her critics, it is either hapless Michael Foot frothing at the mouth, or angry strikers screaming in her face as poor Maggie looks on pained and scared. The working class is reduced to a band of nameless thugs who are busy burning buildings, and too stupid to understand how her draconian cuts will, in the long run, save them. To be fair, there are scenes of police brutality, but these are overwhelmed by images of Thatcher shuffling around in her slippers talking to Denis.

One of the more interesting themes in the film is the idea that Thatcher saw herself as a trailblazer for women. Much has been written about her dislike of feminism, and the fact that women and children suffered disproportionally from her policies, and that during her time in office, she appointed just one woman to her cabinet. Of course, few feminists want to own Thatcher as a kindred sister, but in a way, Thatcher should be seen as an example of what happens when feminism adopts Thatcherism.

In a bizarre way, Thatcher’s “feminism” was prescient in that today’s popular feminism, with its celebration of individual empowerment and personal choices, indeed makes Thatcher a Third Wave feminist success story. The movie celebrates her tough decisions, and her obstinate agency, whatever the consequences. Similarly, today’s feminism-lite is all about the elite women who get to enjoy the goodies that capitalism hands out to a few of us, devoid of any political understanding of how economic, political and legal institutions operate to limit the life chances of poor white women and women of color. These elite women run the mainstream blogs, journals and publishing houses, and it is their experiences that become normalized and celebrated as feminism.

That these women may be working in institutions that reproduce gender, class and racial inequality, and hence are now part of the problem, is ignored, and those who do point this out are smacked down for denying women “agency.”  Equally problematic is the inability of elite feminists to understand that, just because they themselves have class and race privileges, this does not change the conditions of life for most women on the planet. Developing theory from the experiences of the most privileged individuals makes for a feminist movement that is popular with the boys, but irrelevant to most women. Thatcher famously said that there is no such thing as society; no structure, no collectivity, only individuals. She was wrong, but how awful that much of what passes for feminism today has embraced such an idea.

GAIL DINES is a professor of sociology and women’s studies at Wheelock College in Boston. Her latest book is Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked our Sexuality (Beacon Press)


More articles by:
June 18, 2018
Paul Street
Denuclearize the United States? An Unthinkable Thought
John Pilger
Bring Julian Assange Home
Conn Hallinan
The Spanish Labyrinth
Patrick Cockburn
Attacking Hodeidah is a Deliberate Act of Cruelty by the Trump Administration
Gary Leupp
Trump Gives Bibi Whatever He Wants
Thomas Knapp
Child Abductions: A Conversation It’s Hard to Believe We’re Even Having
Robert Fisk
I Spoke to Palestinians Who Still Hold the Keys to Homes They Fled Decades Ago – Many are Still Determined to Return
Steve Early
Requiem for a Steelworker: Mon Valley Memories of Oil Can Eddie
Jim Scheff
Protect Our National Forests From an Increase in Logging
Adam Parsons
Reclaiming the UN’s Radical Vision of Global Economic Justice
Dean Baker
Manufacturing Production Falls in May and No One Notices
Laura Flanders
Bottom-Up Wins in Virginia’s Primaries
Binoy Kampmark
The Anguish for Lost Buildings: Embers and Death at the Victoria Park Hotel
Weekend Edition
June 15, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Dan Kovalik
The US & Nicaragua: a Case Study in Historical Amnesia & Blindness
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Yellow Journalism and the New Cold War
Charles Pierson
The Day the US Became an Empire
Jonathan Cook
How the Corporate Media Enslave Us to a World of Illusions
Ajamu Baraka
North Korea Issue is Not De-nuclearization But De-Colonization
Andrew Levine
Midterms Coming: Antinomy Ahead
Louisa Willcox
New Information on 2017 Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Deaths Should Nix Trophy Hunting in Core Habitat
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Singapore Fling
Ron Jacobs
What’s So Bad About Peace, Man?
Robert Hunziker
State of the Climate – It’s Alarming!
L. Michael Hager
Acts and Omissions: The NYT’s Flawed Coverage of the Gaza Protest
Dave Lindorff
However Tenuous and Whatever His Motives, Trump’s Summit Agreement with Kim is Praiseworthy
Robert Fantina
Palestine, the United Nations and the Right of Return
Brian Cloughley
Sabre-Rattling With Russia
Chris Wright
To Be or Not to Be? That’s the Question
David Rosen
Why Do Establishment Feminists Hate Sex Workers?
Victor Grossman
A Key Congress in Leipzig
John Eskow
“It’s All Kinderspiel!” Trump, MSNBC, and the 24/7 Horseshit Roundelay
Paul Buhle
The Russians are Coming!
Joyce Nelson
The NED’s Useful Idiots
Lindsay Koshgarian
Trump’s Giving Diplomacy a Chance. His Critics Should, Too
Louis Proyect
American Nativism: From the Chinese Exclusion Act to Trump
Stan Malinowitz
On the Elections in Colombia
Camilo Mejia
Open Letter to Amnesty International on Nicaragua From a Former Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience
David Krieger
An Assessment of the Trump-Kim Singapore Summit
Jonah Raskin
Cannabis in California: a Report From Sacramento
Josh Hoxie
Just How Rich Are the Ultra Rich?
CJ Hopkins
Awaiting the Putin-Nazi Apocalypse
Mona Younis
We’re the Wealthiest Country on Earth, But Over 40 Percent of Us Live in or Near Poverty
Dean Baker
Not Everything Trump Says on Trade is Wrong
James Munson
Trading Places: the Other 1% and the .001% Who Won’t Save Them
Rivera Sun
Stop Crony Capitalism: Protect the Net!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail