Touria Prayag's Blog

Rusting in peace Par Touria Prayag 11 Avril 2013

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on September 15, 2013

The unions, the working classes and many Britons did not shed any tears over Margaret Thatcher’s demise this week. Some even went to the extent of erupting in ‘Thatcher death parties’ on the streets of the British capital.


As for Ireland, the graffiti which adorns a wall in Belfast says it all: “Iron Lady, rust in peace”.


As it happens, if the working classes are not weeping for Maggie, neither perhaps should the middle classes. These are now victims of her free-market policies; the very policies that Margaret Thatcher promoted and which benefited them then. Her winner-takes-all financial model, now a failure, still haunts the world today.


And, when it comes to shedding tears, sadly, neither should women. Feminists the world over looked to her quick and unexpected ascension to power as an opportunity for women of all social classes to break through the glass ceiling. They looked up to her as a role model and looked forward to the birth of women-friendly policies which would liberate them from the shackles of years of oppression. Hopes were high that Britain’s most steadfast post-war prime minister would introduce the necessary framework which would allow women to pursue demanding professional careers and reduce the gender-based discrimination.


Sadly, few men have worked harder than Mrs. Thatcher to undermine the position of women. She was against single mothers, working mothers and women in general. She froze child benefits, castigated women for working and leaving their children in the “chaos of workplace crèches” and earned herself the moniker “Maggie Thatcher, milk snatcher” by taking away free milk from school children. We all recall, in this respect, French singer Renaud’s famous song in which he paid tribute to all women of the world, “sauf peut être Madame Thatcher” (except perhaps Mrs. Thatcher).


Her contribution to the expanding of horizons of other women in politics can be reflected in this simple fact: throughout the time she spent at the helm of the country, only one woman made it, briefly, as a senior minister. Her cabinet was, otherwise, entirely male. As soon as she climbed up, she pulled the ladder up behind her.


Some might perhaps want to talk about how, as a woman, she promoted peace. Very well: she almost singlehandedly waged the Falklands War, a war which no one understood the reason for, let alone wanted.


These are the cornerstones of Mrs. Thatcher’s governance and her contribution to the lives and image of women in Britain. Her stance when it comes to women can be summarised by Patricia Hewitt, a Labour minister, in the following statement to the BBC, “Margaret Thatcher damaged women’s place in the workplace, undermined families and communities and did nothing for women in public life. It was a wasted opportunity on a gargantuan scale.”


Before she became prime minister, Mrs. Thatcher had said in a television interview that she thought there would never be a woman prime minister in her lifetime. During her reign, the answer of hordes of women was, “there still isn’t”.


Margaret Thatcher, however, remains an icon forever etched in the history of Britain and that of the world. So may her soul rest in peace. And may her ideology stay right here, within the mortal dimension, to allow for a better world order in the after-life. Death would be easier for us to face if we had that assurance.


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