#nowthatchersdead

#Warning: Hashtags, swearing, and totally-unresearched feminist rants contained within. Read at your own peril.

The demise of the Iron Lady this week and the inevitable idiocy of the Twitterverse (#nitwittery) has resulted in an 80s mash up you didn’t see coming on a Saturday night MTV countdown.

Grammar is important, people, as these Failbookers learnt:

I could forgive the lack of apostrophe (since they made a massive effort not to MiX CaPs, which I really appreciate), but grammar isn’t just about literal correctness, it’s also about understanding how language is used and understood (NB: I made that up… but I’m sticking with it).

We use grammar, diacritical marks, typefaces, and fonty-stuff (that’s the technical term) to enhance written text in an attempt to convey the things we would use accent and gesture and facial expression for in face to face speech. For example, using underline means you’re a passive-aggressive bitch. Using asterisks around a word means you’re too #zooeydeschanel for emoticons (*hipsterface*). Using Times New Roman shows you don’t know how to use Word. Using Comic Sans means you’re an old person who doesn’t know how to use Word.

If the hashtaggers had just taken an extra ‘i’ or added a ‘maggie’, the confusion wouldn’t have been such hell-on-celebrity-island for poor Cher:

But my personal confusion is in the confusion itself. I don’t understand why people who don’t know who Thatcher is care if Cher died. Aren’t they both massive 80s female icons that no one gives a crap about now? Why are the twit-tweens mourning the loss of Miss Plastic Fantastic? Even in the late 90s during her purported revival, her only cultural relevance for me was my disquieting obsession over whether she believed in LIFE after love or LOVE after love. THEY BOTH MADE SENSE. Yah, the time before Googling lyrics.

Even if it was Cher who had died, the outpouring of giving a shit from those who think of her as Christina Aguilera’s co-star in that terrible movie seems entirely disingenuous. The only songs I know of hers make me want to pop my own eardrums with a frantically inserted earbud, and she is definitely not aging gracefully (#joanriversisawaxmodelofherself #madonnaputthatleotardaway), but I’ll not deny that she’s an icon, a cultural trendsetter, and apparently the ‘Goddess of Pop‘ (#sheain’tnoMichael).

So what if it was Thatcher who died? Oh wait, it was. Without the Confusion of Idiots (seriously, if it’s not already, that should be the collective noun), I doubt this would have got a lot of attention in mainstream social media.

I was not nearly born when Thatcher earned the moniker ‘the Iron Lady’ from the Ruskis (#ohtheirony #get it? IRONy!). As such, I know sweet F-A about her and her reign of mixed appraisals. Unlike my usually soooo-well-researched opinions (#wikipedia), I’m gonna go ahead and base this on a) the media that I already distrust, b) the stuff in my head, and c) the stuff my womb says out my mouth (#hysteria).

The only thing I’ve ever really known about Maggie is that she was Britain’s first (and only) PM. By the time I knew even this, I’d already grown accustomed to the obviously unnatural notion of a woman in a powerful political position. The first NZ PM that I was ever aware of was shortly thereafter deposed by a woman who I cannot help but recall as Delores Umbridge:

Following that, the first female Prime Minister elect came in the form of Helen Clark, who wooed the (sensible) sectors of NZ with her sensible dress (it’s about the politics) and sensible policies (it’s about the people), and now helps starving children in her 3rd-from-the-top role in the UN. Go Aunty Helen! It’s only relatively recently in my adult life that a male PM has been a thing again, and lordy does that dubbya-with-a-kiwi-accent make me wish Aunty would return.

But while NZ is usually big on the social firsts (first women’s vote, for example), it was Thatcher who beat down the female PM front. Whether you agree with her politics or not (I don’t know if I do or not, as I said, no research, just feelings-spew), she surely did some service for women’s position in power roles, and not just in politics.

What has annoyed the feminist f*ck outa me though, is the dichotomous depiction of Thatch in the media in the week since her death.

Granted, I’ve done no research, and am basing this only on the media-spew that was immediately obvious to me. I’m sure there are much better works of journalism abounding, but they were not what I saw.

What I’ve noticed is the age-old distrust of women in power, which shows itself in the form of two opposing but secretly similar stereotypes: the power-hungry bitch who uses her sexuality to ladder-climb all over her male counterparts’ power-sticks, or the power-hungry bitch who gives up all femininity and fertility and forgoes the ‘natural’ route of motherhood (or at least ‘neglects’ her family) to ladder-climb straight over her male counterparts’ power-sticks.

Think about every female boss you’ve ever had… now tell me how many of them haven’t been talked about as either a cold bitch or a hot slut.

Either way, it’s all about the dicks. A woman either wants one, or wants to be on one.

While Jenny Shipley and Helen Clark perhaps occupy different ends of the spectrum in the NZ public’s minds’ eye, Margaret Thatcher was an anomaly, in that she was a two-for-one deal. Apparently the men around her in cabinet and parliament hated her for not taking their opinions as law, while simultaneously wanting to ‘get on that’.

One article in The Week referenced her ‘long, shapely legs’ that she would tuck up under herself on the couch while doing important lady-PM business. Coz I’m sure David Cameron NEVER puts his feet up. But then it’d be hard to demean him as a schoolgirl, now wouldn’t it? What with the suit and the slick hair and the PENIS.

I never distinctly thought of myself as a ‘feminist’, mainly because the word still holds the connotations of the frowned-upon second-wavers burning their bras, having sex with everything that moved, and hating not only ‘The Man’ but all Man. Penises are evil don’tcha know?

But I guess I was lucky to grow up in the post-feminist era where I didn’t have to burn my bra because referencing my breasts was the only way to get my voice heard. Up here boys. No, up here. My mouth. No, don’t put that in there, no not there either. LISTEN TO ME!

However, I think I was naive in thinking the progress that was made meant it would keep getting better. I am so happy to see other minority or oppressed groups moving forwards in their claims for equality. Or rather, the rest of the world is moving forward in not being backwards twats. But I feel like the feminist movement, or whatever we’re gonna call it now, has stalled, and maybe we need to start protesting again.

I want to protest the backwards, Freudian portrayal of women in the media, the workplace, politics, wherever you find power imbalance. I never thought that messed up Oedipal misogynist – who most in the psychiatric world deem as laughably irrelevant – could still be having such an influence on the way we view and treat women.

Sometimes we want dicks. Sometimes we don’t. Either way, that doesn’t make women sluts, teases, power-hungry, frigid, objects, or unwomanly.

You know why I still don’t know anything about Margaret Thatcher’s political policies? Coz none of those articles this week mentioned them.

Update: see JJ’s comments below for a lesson in how to talk about a female you despise without calling her a bitch or a slut (#smartymcbrains).

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13 thoughts on “#nowthatchersdead

  1. Lauren

    First of all, never apologise for being a feminist. Second of all, never say that you’re not a feminist because you have never burned a bra. Thirdly, there’s no such thing as “post-feminisim”. Last time I looked there was no equality of the sexes – you mention that yourself above by comparing Thatcher and Cameron.

    Reply
    1. shapelle Post author

      True, there is no post-feminism, there is only post-initial-how-the-fuck-can-we-be-listened-to-ism. But I do think there’s been a lull. Time to rise up?!

      Reply
  2. Lauren

    Maybe a lull in Western society, but there’s plenty going on in other places (maybe because the need is greater?). Pussy Riot, Femen, women in Saudia Arabia, India…

    Reply
    1. shapelle Post author

      Yup Western apathy is the worst. We think we’re ahead of those women in those countries so we sit back and say yeah, well done, you’ll get where we are eventually. And as we sit there, they’ll go flying past us.

      Reply
  3. Lauren

    Or, maybe we should be supporting them because they’re getting sent to jail and killed for their protesting. I just don’t know how!

    Reply
  4. shmennikins

    We need to not become complacent in what we’ve achieved, but also not allow that achievement to allow us to bend to those who, in an attempt to retain what they can of the status quo, say ‘oh, but we’ve gained/given so much! Can’t we all just take a breather?’ The answer has to be no, because, obviously, we’re still not equal. People don’t seem to realise that feminists aren’t just irritable misanthropists, they’re actually advocating for their own irrelevance. A true feminist should want nothing more than *not to have to be* a feminist, as there will be no need for feminism when the playing field is truly equal.
    Also, as you’ve pointed out, feminism is helping bring other minorities up into the light as well, in much the same way as Western feminism and (largely American) civil rights movements have been linked throughout the 20th century. So trying to understand privilege on a bunch of levels, recognising and checking your own and calling out others is the way I try to run my feminist self, and frame my discourse with others.
    On Thatcher, I’m assuming you saw the (admittedly excellent) Russell Brand piece that was linkylinked to ad nauseum on teh Twitters? For me, he iterated really clearly the key feelings I absorbed about Thatcher, as someone born during the height of the miners’ strikes to parents who left England for New Zild in part to escape from Thatcher’s vision of what Britain was to be. Her extreme right-wing views on social policy were encapsulated in her oft-(apparently)misquoted “There is no such thing as society”, and I cannot square that mindset with the interconnectedness I see as a crucial part of feminism. Screw all the ‘earth mother’ ‘we are all somebody’s child’ crap – for me it comes down to a reversal of Niemöller’s poignant “First they came…”: allowing *any* class or group of people to enjoy fewer rights or opportunities than others, simply because of who or what they are is abhorrent and must not be tolerated, but it can also act as a wedge, which can allow the inequalities to spread to encompass more people. Or, to put it in a more selfish (and, my upbringing says, more Thatcher-esque) way: to refuse to help somone may be to condemn your future self to be helpless.
    [/end rant]

    Reply
    1. shapelle Post author

      That, people, is how you talk about Thatcher without resorting to ‘bitch’ or ‘slut’ tropes. Thanks for the education Jen, and I’m secretly pleased to be getting schooled by Russell, and not in a naughty way. Cheers my fem-friend. Hmm… sounds like a new type of fembot or ladyparts product… Super appropriate.

      Reply
  5. shmennikins

    tl;dr – feminism good and necessary, Thatcher non-feminist priveleged and ignorantly destructive numpty who is no political or social loss to the world (but as a private person yadda yadda).

    Reply
  6. Le Clown

    Shapelle,
    Dude, this is eXcelLenT! I LOLed from top to bottom. Do I have anything intelligent to say about it? Fuck no. Now I don’t know what the FP people will think about moi referring this to them, as it is yesteryear’s news, but I am doing it anyway. I am my own boss, said the Iron Lady Stark.
    Le Clown

    Reply
    1. shapelle Post author

      Thank you Mr Feminist! That sounds sarcy, but I promise it’s not. How does one refer one to the FP-gawds? Does one simply become the one, the only Le Clown and then rain reccies down upon them like fire and brilliant brimstone? WoRd.

      Reply
      1. Le Clown

        Shapelle,
        One way is to tweet the gods… Which I have done. So you’ve been tweeted.
        Le Clown

        Reply

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