In the couple of days since Margaret Thatcher passed away, it’s felt like the above question has been posed to everyone and his dog, with a direct invite to answer. Heated debate is everywhere you go – from the office to Twitter to Newsnight to my daily phone call with my BFF. This very website has hosted a very lively comments thread on our post marking the Baroness’s demise. Morrissey‘s got in there with his two cents, of course – who would have expected anything else? His no-holds-barred take on her legacy echoes the voice of the British public – or, at least, the majority of the voices I have heard in the last 48 hours. Is it just that my social networks have a disproportionate amount of left-wing opinions, or is this truly representative of how Britons feel? Are the pro-Thatcher voices keeping their thoughts to themselves in fear of being torn to shreds?I am not an expert on politics. I’m really REALLY not an expert on politics. I keep up to date with current events, albeit by reading a certain biased left-wing paper every day – a habit I haven’t every particularly thought about changing because it fits the values I was brought up with. It’s quite possibly easier to face life reading the news from an angle which doesn’t challenge existing beliefs – cognitive dissonance theory, eat your heart out. I don’t like being challenged, but three things I’ve heard since Margaret Thatcher’s death have challenged me immensely. I’ve pondered and quite possibly pontificated on them and then I was asked to write about her passing so here they are:
1. “Thatcher was a terror without an atom of humanity”
That one’s from Morrissey. Did she really not have an atom of humanity? Did she love her family? Yes. Is she actually a robot, an alien, an evil spirit or the devil incarnate? No? Then Morrissey’s just being over-dramatic (hmm, not like him).
2. “I hate feminism. It is poison.”
This particular Thatcher quote had passed me by (see above re: not being a political expert, add in a patchy curriculum in History class and multiply by a pretty bad memory). Anyway. Ouch. Feminism is not poison! The comments thread on the first HelloGiggles post about her death had some really interesting and insightful debates about Thatcher’s relationship with the feminist movement, check it out. It led to a conversation between me and a friend earlier where we debated whether you could be a feminist icon without being a feminist yourself. Similarly, can you be a feminist icon to some and the antithesis of feminism to others? The answer to both of those questions has got to be yes – the very fact that some feminists hold her up as an icon means she must be an icon. We know she wasn’t self-defined as a feminist, quite the opposite of course, but that didn’t stop some feminists being inspired by her success. I think, though, it’s fair to say that most feminists despised her – and especially despised the fact that her name is linked to feminism at all. But I don’t think Obama was wrong in his comment on how she taught “our daughters that there is no glass ceiling that can’t be shattered“? Morrissey reckons that “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.”. Nonsense. Thanks, Morrissey – what I take from that is an implication that every strong British woman aspiring to be a politician will automatically be an iron-ish lady. As ever, the feminism debate continues.
3. “Ding Dong, the b***ch is dead”
We get it. Her decisions made life miserable for a lot of people and she made decisions that most of us will never, ever understand – let alone be on board with. It’s not my intention to try and pass my opinions of her off as gospel – there’s too many people doing that already. One thing I will say is that holding parties to celebrate her passing is just distasteful – can I go as far as to say that’s a fact? What threat would she have been to society if she’d passed next year instead of this? The fact that she died at 87 instead of 88 will make no difference to her lasting legacy, so celebrating her death is completely pointless and just hurtful to her family.
Time.com said the following, which sums it up better than I ever could: “For admirers, Thatcher was a saviour who rescued Britain from ruin and laid the groundwork for an extraordinary economic renaissance. For critics, she was a heartless tyrant who ushered in an era of greed that kicked the weak out onto the streets and let the rich become filthy rich.” Those who agree with the latter have been very vocal over the last few days. While it’s absolutely crucial to analyse the historical, political, ecological, sociological, everything-ical repercussions of her influence and power, why don’t we take a leaf from Obama’s book: Why would a beloved, relatively liberal leader make a positive statement about one of the most right-wing politicians in history? Because we shouldn’t speak ill of the dead. Let’s remember the facts of what she did, how she was and the decisions she made – but keep any celebratory feelings to ourselves.
Featured image via Shutterstock.