Sunday, 14 April 2013

Burying the Thatchet?

The deaths of the elderly, however expected, always seem to come as a bit of a surprise. So when I heard Baroness Thatcher had finally dropped from her perch, I put down my copy of Socialist Worker and took a while to look into my soul.
I was only young when she was in power, so sucked up my views about her from my family.
I was brought up in a Thatcher-despising household. The conversation as I grew up in the eighties was as anti-Thatch as it was possible to get. "That awful woman" was the common refrain. My dad put a massive "Vote Labour" banner around the end of the house once. Hating Thatcher, I knew, was in my blood, and I believed everything I was told.
In the intervening years, I haven't given much time to analysing her. Perhaps I developed a glimmer of admiration for a woman lording it over so many Tory old duffers.
But while I have carved out a pretty directionless career for the last 10 years and most carelessly popped out a couple of kids, it seems I should have been reading Thatcher biographies.
It was only when she slipped off the radar in the Ritz and it was beamed to the nation on Sky News, I actually realised what an icon she was.
Ok, ok, so there were the miners, the Irish hunger strikers, the Falklands, the selfish individualism, the raping of British industry and the creation of far too many energy providers.
But putting all that aside - she was incredible. My jaw hangs open in awe when I see her at work in all the documentary footage. The level of sheer power and influence she achieved as a woman, a person, a mother, is just beyond what seems possible even now. She has been criticised for not being feminist enough and didn't promote enough women. She didn't feel it was her task, she just wanted to get on with the job.
We need more real women coming through, doing real things, without taking the short-list ladder or blathering constantly about feminism and such (although I think feminism is great, obviously, and have the body hair to prove it.)
"Lean in", as Facebook woman Sheryl Sandberg would say. Thatch leaned in so much she threw herself across the table, pushed a couple of blokes in the face with her steely hands and another couple with her court shoe heels. Rock on, Iron Lady.
Personally, I fail to lean in at all times. I'm timid, although self-assured in a couple of limited areas and environments. But I know that ambition isn't enough. But Thatcher wasn't just a steamroller from Grantham. She clearly had a mind like a blooming sponge that mere mortals can only dream of. She qualified as a research chemist then a short while later with two kids became a barrister for Geoffrey Howe's sake.
Although I'm reluctant to reduce a female politician to her looks, I should at least say something on her style. Her self-presentation put us all to shame. The hair, the suits, the little scarves, the slightly larger scarves. All amazing.
There are many who will argue that we can't bury Thatcher-hate with her death - that we must remember the destruction she wrought. But I think we must.
Let's remember her as the impressive, aggressive, frightening, stylish political icon she was. No matter what the truth is, we have to stop blaming her for the country's current problems and set about solving some of them. Even if she caused them.
So on at her funeral on Wednesday, let's bury the Thatchet, so to speak.

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