The Iron Lady’s Legacy

ImageMargaret Thatcher’s recent passing has created an internet stir, and it sounds as if the release of her posthumous book will have us talking about Maggie for some time. While it’s generally tacky to cash in on a famous person’s death, this moment does give me pause.

As someone who studies the social policy and neoliberalism, I have a lot to say about Thatcherism and the damaging policies that she championed. Along with Reagan, she transformed the world as we know it, heralding low corporate taxes, privatization, and an assault on labor unions and the poor. In essence, the opposite of what I would have wanted any leader to do in the United Kingdom at that time (or really anywhere, at anytime).

I’ve already posted on the naive expectation that women leaders will necessarily be progressive leaders. There are plenty of Sarah Palin’s reality show  episodes to remind you in case you have a moment of delusional optimism.

So how at Lady Economist should we recognize the passing of a leader with whom we very much disagree? Should we celebrate that Margaret Thatcher was the first British Prime Minister to be a woman and dominated in a man’s world? Or should we judge her not by her gender but by her policies?

[Photo credit: Buzzfeed]

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Categories: Global Economics, Lady Business

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6 replies

  1. Can you not do both? Why does the question presume that the outlined considerations are mutually exclusive?

  2. @Nebob Thanks for your comment. Yes, absolutely we can do both – they are not mutually exclusive in her case at all. But leaders like Thatcher remind us that electing women isn’t enough to advance policies that are good for women. In fact, history has shown us that some women leaders will adopt policies that will actually harm women (and children, the poor, and many other populations). So we have to be careful who we vote for or realize what we mean when we say that we want more “women in government” or positions of power. I’d vote for a progressive male leader over Margaret Thatcher (or Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachmann) any day.

  3. I absolutely agree, but tremendous value remains in acknowleding that Thatcher was a woman who successfully held the UK’s highest public office. At minimum, it dispels the ridiculous notion that women “can’t” or “shouldn’t” lead (we’re probably saying the same thing on this point). Another arguably more frustrating question that her tenure prompts is whether a national executive leader can simultaneously be a woman and pursue progressive policies. Thus far, few examples of this combination exist (Lady Economist’s always-favorite Hilary Clinton being one of them!).

  4. I worry that sometimes – that conservative women are more electable because conservative men are more willing to rally behind them if/when they sell out women’s rights. It’s a scary thought. But hopefully Hilary will prove this fear wrong. We have strong, progressive women in the U.S. Congress (Rosa DeLauro, Donna Edwards, Elizabeth Warren, Diana Degette, to name a few). But when will a woman of their brains, talents, princples, and politics take the Oval Office?

    • While the Oval Office would be an incredible win for the acquisition of power for women, your comment also prompts me to wonder whether the focus on our first female President may actually be a bit misplaced? In other words, policy changes could still occur (and may be more likely) through other means, namely through people like the women you mention above.

      Either way, my vote is for Lady Economist in 2016!

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