Today – the 8th March 2014 – is a special day. Or rather, all days are special but this day is particularly noteworthy because it is International Women’s Day. Today, we are supposed to remember inspirational women around the world and remember both how far we have come, and how far we have to go. Gender equality still does not exist, with sexism playing an active detrimental role to men and women around the world.
Today, in the first IWD since her death, I am particularly remembering Margaret Thatcher: the first female Prime Minister (or President) in the Western World, and still the only female PM in the UK. A greengrocer’s daughter in a more overtly sexist and classist time, Margaret Roberts (Thatcher) won a scholarship to Oxford while helping her father run the family business, before embarking on a political career.
In an unusual lack of foresight, in 1973 Mrs Thatcher said that “I don’t think there will be a woman prime minister in my lifetime.” As history tells, she was proved wrong. Three times.
On the 4th of May 1979, she was elected Prime Minister. Then, in 1983 she was elected again. And then, in 1987, she was re-elected a third time. Margaret Thatcher, in addition to being the only female PM in Britain also holds the honour of being the longest serving British PM.
Regardless of whether you agree with her politics, that is a tremendous achievement. That is something I thought all of us could agree upon. It seems not.
After posting a tweet to the effect that I was remembering the achievements of Mrs Thatcher today, one near-sighted individual questioned whether I was being ironic, going on to say that Thatcher deserves no recognition today. It is this thought that shows up in many leftists denunciation of Thatcher: she could not be an inspirational woman because the only women deserving of praise are those that are leftist politically.
I am also reminded of the awful comments in the wake of Mrs Thatcher’s death when Labour MP Glenda Jackson showed a startling lack of political acumen alongside a startling display of arrogance by saying that Thatcher was “a woman, but not on my terms”. Not only are non-leftist women not worthy of praise on a day like today, but they don’t even deserve to be counted as women. That doesn’t seem very inclusive at all.
Thatcher – whether you like her politics, whether you like her as an individual – made tremendous achievements and still proves to be an inspirational figure to many men and women. Saying that she doesn’t deserve remembrance today because she isn’t a leftist is to tie the notion of womanhood to a political stance, thus excluding the many intelligent and important rightist feminists we have.
Today is International Women’s Day – not International Leftist Women Day. Today is a day for remembering the achievements and struggles of people like Margaret Thatcher, while remaining aware of the distance we have yet to go in the fight for gender equality. Letting socialists take over this day for their own political agenda is to degrade the struggles of non-leftist women. Women are women – whether or not you agree with them politically. And influential women are still influential women – whether or not you think their influence was positive or not.
Also, just saying, Emmeline Pankhurst was a Conservative.