Was Margaret Thatcher a feminist?
Yesterday, commenters on my Thatcher post engaged a vigorous and excellent debate on the topic. I recommend it to everyone’s attention.
This morning Mona Charen offered her own view. Today’s feminists seem to want to claim Thatcher as one of their own, but most feminists in the past have reviled Margaret Thatcher:
But no, the feminists loathed her. During her first campaign for national office in 1979, the more polite noseholders said, “We want women’s rights, not a right-wing woman.” The less subtle circulated the slogan “Ditch the B****.” Following the release of the movie The Iron Lady, a feminist wailed on the Huffington Post that Thatcher was “the embodiment of everything that feminism is not: selfish, rigid, and intolerant.”
Thatcher was Charen notes, self-made. Her rise to power owed nothing to a husband or father. It owed nothing to feminism, either. She did not attempt to divide the body politic by gender. She did not see men's interests as necessarily inimical to women's interests.
She had no use for a leftist, statist ideology like feminism and feminists had no real use for her.
Clearly, the odds against her were enormous. She prevailed through the force of her will and the power of her ideas. She never complained about being subjected to discrimination… not because she never suffered it, but because she knew that complaining would have made her look weak.
She led the British conservative party and she served its interests. When she became prime minister she worked for the nation not for a sectarian ideology.
Unlike Hillary Clinton, who rode to power on her husband’s coattails, or world leaders like Benazir Bhutto and Indira Gandhi, whose powerful fathers blazed the trail, Thatcher was completely self-made. She never once complained, as Clinton has more than once, that she was unfairly treated because she was a woman. Many a male MP tangled with her to his cost. She never asked for a vote in the name of women’s empowerment. She had no use for such trivialities. She had a country to save.
Margaret Thatcher understood feminism and refused to have anything to do with it. Surely, she agreed with feminists on some issues, but her grounding philosophy was conservative and revolved around the need to assert liberty and oppose tyranny.
For some time now feminists have been cultivating the habit of co-opting certain individuals to serve their cause. They believe that Margaret Thatcher advanced their cause because she was a woman. They ignore the fact that she rejected their cause. And they disrespect her by refusing to take her at her word.
Contra President Obama, perhaps the least interesting fact about Margaret Thatcher is that she was a woman. Far more important were her dedication to liberty (economic, as well as political), her fierce opposition to tyranny of all sorts, her indomitable spirit, and this above all — that she was proven right. As she said, “The facts of life are conservative.”
Feminism is an ideology and a political movement. Like many liberation movements it comes from the radical left. At root, it wants to organize a vanguard of women to engage in class struggle against the dominant and oppressive patriarchy.
Contemporary feminism wants women to be the vanguard of the revolution, so it insists that it represents all women. One might think that feminists glory in being women, but they believe more often that womanhood was created by the patriarchy as a way to oppress females.
Feminists tend to confuse equality with sameness. They insist that biological differences between the sexes are trivial. They believe that these differences are social constructs that were invented by patriarchs.
Thus, feminists want women to serve in the infantry even if they cannot pass the physicals. They believe that the physical tests were invented by men to exclude women.
Just about everyone believes that women should be given every opportunity to excel. Everyone cheers the success of Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg.
The latter declares herself a feminist; the former does not.
But it quite another story when feminists decide that they are going to use government to impose their gender-neutral vision on the labor market in order to ensure that there are an equal number of women at all levels of the corporate hierarchy.
If a woman like Anne-Marie Slaughter chooses not to pursue a higher level of career success because it will take her too far away from her family, her free choice should be respected. And, we ought to recognize that the disparity between the number of male and female CEOs might have other causes than discrimination and patriarchal oppression.
Feminists are also promoting a new way for women to conduct their lives. They believe that in a good marriage household chores will be equally divided, couples will contribute equally to the household treasury, and that it makes no difference if the woman is the breadwinner.
Women have every right to choose to conduct their marriages and their private lives as they see fit, but it is necessary to point out that a couple that shares household chores, especially the chores that have been traditionally associated with women is 50% more likely to get divorced. And it is also relevant to notice that a marriage where both husband and wife contribute equally financially is 100% more likely to contain abuse. And finally, when a woman is the breadwinner the man is more likely to have been prescribed Viagra and the woman is more likely to have been prescribed medicine for anxiety and insomnia.
Women have every right to live their lives by the principles that feminism espouses, but they should also be aware of the fact that the new feminist life plan might not always be the best for women.
Lately, feminists have been recruiting young women by saying that if you believe in certain principles then you are, ipso facto, a feminist. It's not quite recruiting; it's signing you up whether you like it or not.
They have made an exception for Sarah Palin. When Palin declared herself to be a feminist, movement feminists roundly rejected her.
But, when did it happen that your belief in this or that principle commits you to an ideology and identifies you as a member of a political or even religious group.
I am confident that I could find a few precepts in scientology that we would all accept. That does not make us scientologists.
If you believe in doing unto others as you would have others do unto you, it does not make you a member of the dozen or so different religions that hold the principle to be an article of faith.