A Bit 'o Random Musings on Politics, Religion, and Anything Else That Passes Through My Crazy Head

Monday, April 8, 2013

Iron, Lady

You may have heard by now that Margaret Thatcher, the "Iron Lady" of Britain, passed away today at age 87.  She was the first (and so far the only) female prime minister of the U.K.  While I listened to the news on my way into work this morning, it was a teensy bit jarring to hear her described as a "statesman."  She was a stateswoman, thank you very much.  It reminded me of just how embedded it is in our culture to assume that the man is the leader.  Many pronouns - "chairman," "congressman," "spokesman" to name a few - assume that the leader is a male.  Syntax (and punctuation, see below!) matter.  We often take this gender exclusive language without thinking about it, but it never seemed to occur to "Maggie" that she wasn't fit for leadership.  She just assumed that she knew what to do, and went about getting it done.

Baroness Thatcher and I disagree on many things.  However, I greatly admire her toughness and resolve in the face of obstacles - she had the courage of her convictions.  I like what Roger Ebert said about seeing her in a room full of powerful men: “Invisible psychic threads of respect and yearning extended toward her from the men,” he wrote. “When she spoke, they fell silent….It was the most remarkable display of personal authority I have ever seen.”

In a world that too often told women to "iron, lady" (i.e. stay home) she was instead an Iron Lady who wanted to lead.  She wasn't afraid that it wasn't ladylike, or that she might offend people by standing up for herself.  She simply saw the problem and thought she had the solution.

Margaret Thatcher Addresses Congress, 1985

You can read the full text of her speech here.  RIP, Maggie.  Thank you for being a strong, determined woman who had the courage to lead - you inspire stateswomen on both sides of the political spectrum to enter the arena and let our voices be heard.

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