Mansplainer #2: Is Margaret Thatcher’s Legacy Holding Women Back?

Brezhnev took Afghanistan
Begin took Beirut
Galtieri took the Union Jack
And Maggie over lunch one day
Took a cruiser with all hands
Apparently to make him give it back

– Roger Waters (on Pink Floyd’s “Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert”)

The passing of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has led to a divisive public discourse over her legacy and whether it should be celebrated or denounced. While some would call her “one of the great champions of freedom and liberty”, others contend that she was a war criminal on account of the sinking of the Belgrano.

The controversial figure, who once called Nelson Mandela’s ANC “a typical terrorist organisation”, is being heralded as a feminist icon, even though she did not see it that way herself.

“I hate feminism. It is poison.”

Even though she is still reviled in the public sphere and even in British Parliament (and justly so, I might add), it is still disconcerting that sexist language and misogynistic overtones have dominated the public conversation, even to the point of rocketing “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead” to #1 on the UK charts.

Such animosity is understandable given the context of Thatcher’s role in the bloody battle of Orgreave, a violent conflict between police and unionised miners. But that does not excuse targeting Thatcher for her gender or labelling her with gendered profanities. Fortunately, amid the white noise, there is one voice of reason that stands out balancing the hardships and woes of Thatcherism with the advancement of women to positions of power in global politics. That one voice is Morrissey:

“Iron? No. Barbaric? Yes. She hated feminists even though it was largely due to the progression of the women’s movement that the British people allowed themselves to accept that a Prime Minister could actually be female. But because of Thatcher, there will never again be another woman in power in British politics, and rather than opening that particular door for other women, she closed it.”

Well, almost.

Ok. I lied.

Not at all.

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Mansplainer #1: Sheryl Sandberg vs. The Last Psychiatrist

It’s been over a decade since I finished high school, and my teachers from that time are still handing me reading assignments. Such was the case when this rambling diatribe was sent my way. It’s a piece discussing media coverage of Sheryl Sandberg‘s new book and what we can interpret from it.

One point that I agree with the writer on is the inherent consumerist nature of magazines. I'll take it one step further and say that magazines are mostly advertising and their content is driven by the needs of the advertisers and not vis versa. So I think it would be a fair assessment to see who's being plugged in Cosmo Careers or Time to see what their target demographic is, and how Sandberg's narrative fits in to that. I'm not so sure that covering her ring is really telling of anything, but her posture in both pics indicates a genuine discomfort with having her picture taken (which is pretty normal, mind you).

From what I understand of Sandberg's book, she is really advocating that women take a more assertive role in the advancement of their careers. Simple for some, but it's reliant on a certain amount of privilege. And it's advice that certainly would not be successful if applied universally. It's still a strong message, though, and has merit.

I think the narrative surrounding how her success is being presented in other media is likely far more damaging than her book (which, per the NPR review, apart from being boring, has some very positive messages). It is often spun as "well, Sandberg did it, so can you" which is tantamount to victim blaming, or "the poor are poor because they don't work hard enough" logic, and does little to underline the structural problems that ensure there are not more Sandberg's in the world.

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