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Mrs Thatcher

Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Oh dear. This is a non-partisan, apolitical blog, but I feel a need to post something about the late Baroness Thatcher. Obviously this is a view of a Canadian, and not of a Scot and certainly not of an Irishwoman, an Argentinian or even an Irish-American who gets high off  grievances borrowed from unknown third cousins twice removed.

It is this. I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, and Margaret Thatcher was the only woman in public life I knew whose leadership was taken as seriously as that of a man. And, unlike so many women in public life, she did not derive her career from a man.

Indira Gandhi was the daughter of an Indian Prime Minister. Benazir Bhutto was the daughter of a Pakistani Prime Minister. Hilary Clinton, who didn't quite make PM class, is the wife of an American President. Sonja Gandhi is the widow of Indira Gandhi's son, another Indian Prime Minister.   Margaret Thatcher's father owned a grocery shop, and her husband was a businessman. Both her father and her husband supported and encouraged her, but she was not at all in their shadow or got to be Prime Minister through any legacy of theirs.

(Kim Campbell, by the way, was a short-lived novelty act who made the achievement "first female PM of Canada" meaningless. Her dumb faux-nudie photo lost her--and perhaps other Canadian women--credibility.)

As a child, it really meant a lot to me seeing Margaret Thatcher on television, and hearing her praised or excoriated as a person of real, political importance. Princess Diana was also talked about quite a lot, but not as if she were really all that important. She was gossamer; Thatcher was steel.

Margaret Thatcher had the dubious honour of being admired or hated the same way men are admired or  hated. She was not admired or despised for what she looked like, but for her political decisions. She was loved or hated for her brains and her will. She didn't try to look younger than she was, or prettier than she was, or stupider than she was, or any of those rather obvious ways in which women show our principal weakness: our longing to be loved, admired and cherished, sometimes at any cost.  Margaret Thatcher did not seem to care for that stuff. She had male friends, but the only man she seemed ever to had eyes for was her husband Dennis. There's a great strength in that, too.

And meanwhile, she wore skirts. She carried a handbag. She wore pearls. She did not attempt to deny or signal that she was anyone other than a woman, a middle-aged conservative woman with a businessman husband and two children. But she did not, as is the deplorable modern custom, borrowed from the Americans (although Canadians do this too, alas), show off her family on TV.

Here is an obit that very much resonated with me. My only observations concern the idea that she somehow neglected her children. First, English children whose parents could afford it have been raised by servants and schools for generations. Second, lots of stay-at-home mothers neglect or even sacrifice their children in all kinds of horrible ways. Some mothers drug themselves into a stupor with heroin, booze or even just TV. Others care about nothing except their latest sexy romance with their latest thuggish boyfriend.  Still others beat or belittle their children constantly. Running a G8 nation is not really in the same class.