THE NEWSDESK: Tasteless Thatcher protests an attack on all women
SOMETHING about this week has me on a slow, angry boil and I just have to get it off my chest.
Let me first be clear about my position on Margaret Thatcher’s policies. I grew up in a mining town and was a teenager during the 1984 miners’ strike.
I abhor much of what her policies brought – gouging the heart out of Valleys communities like mine, stripping generations of hope, caring little for the impact of her cuts because she and her government knew full well communities like mine did not vote for her.
Her foreign policy - helping to prop up the pariah that was Chile’s General Pinochet, refusing to strengthen sanctions against the South African apartheid regime – was anathema to me.
But something about this Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead stuff makes me furious.
That witch archetype. The witch, the bitch, the whore or the mad woman in the attic.
The nasty misogyny which rears its ugly head when we women “overstep the mark” or “overreach ourselves”.
All those stupid girls born long after Thatcher’s term of office dancing about to it like in Trafalgar Square at the weekend - unthinking, manipulated, naïve.
Because if Thatcher had been a man, this witch nonsense would not have been on people’s lips.
There are plenty of anti-Thatcher protest songs – try Elvis Costello’s Shipbuilding for one. Try anything by Billy Bragg.
Yet, here we are with this nasty little song in the charts in a protest organised by, oh how surprising, a man.
One can easily argue that Thatcher herself courted the stereotype of the disapproving headmistress, handbagging those who dared to cross her, telling us all to pull our socks up and pull ourselves together.
Yet, aren’t we supposed to have moved on since 1990?
Aren’t we supposed to be better than stereotyping like this?
One thing’s for sure, unless we women stand up and are counted, and stand against these nasty little archetypes every day, even when it comes to those with whom we disagree politically, there won’t be another woman Prime Minister in our lifetimes.
Let’s all try to agree to disagree
THERE is a second thread to my annoyance with events this week, and this is it: since when did Britain become a country where no one can disagree with someone else for fear of a moral backlash?
I think holding Thatcher death parties a crass, distasteful way of making a protest.
Yet the irony of some London-based newspapers who called for a ban on them or the Ding Dong song just weeks after exhorting Leveson to leave a free Press without legal shackles was simply lost upon their own editors.
Then there are also those who simply will not countenance anyone saying the woman herself was not a saint, and they, too, are misguided.
We in Britain cannot canonise our dead politicians like some new Eva Peron. Our culture is to question and weigh up our politicians and their role in history.
We are not a society where dictators command unquestioning loyalty.
Baroness Thatcher was a public figure. The “don’t speak ill of the dead” rule simply cannot apply to someone whose life was lived in public service and paid by the public purse.
And no political obituary should be an uncritical hagiography, because we live in a democracy where people are allowed to hold differing views.
Many living under the yoke of censorship risk their lives for this kind of freedom.
The extremity of reaction to her death seems to be a function of the social division the Thatcher government sought to bring.
We cannot fall into that old bear trap.
I think the best reaction we can all have is to understand that other people have different views to ours, and to allow them the tolerance of expression, even when we dislike what they say or how they say it.
The measure of a man, or woman, is in how they deal with those who disagree with them.
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