An open letter to American feminists on the death of Margaret Thatcher

So yesterday was a Big Thing for Brits on the Internet. And then this happened, a statement that needed saying:

A couple of HFC members have become dismayed at some American feminist pages’ lauding of Thatcher as a feminist icon. This is not the case. She described feminism as poison. But in lauding her they are often at pains to make clear that they ‘don’t agree with the politics but as a woman in power she deserves celebrating’. This is reducing her to her gender, and ignoring the harmful effect she had on women, on the LGBTQ community, and her supporting of racist, classist and genocidal regimes. One cannot laud someone’s office whilst ignoring the crimes they do whilst there, and to reduce anyone to their gender is being sexist.

For those not in the UK, it’s easy to see her as an abstract landmark event. For the people living in the UK we have her legacy, it isn’t historic. It’s going on NOW. It’s a pretty fucked up legacy, that is hurting women, people with disabilities, and is making the UK a more and more unequal society. This is not an abstract to us. We are living this.

When a couple of us took the page in question to task on these very issues, they ignored the testimony of a 33 year old woman who was raised in poverty in Thatcher’s Britain. But in a bizarre possible form of sexism reserved all their replies for the male member of HFC.

We find the idea of forced solidarity with Thatcher based upon her gender highly patronising, and would rather celebrate the women of Greenham Common, the miner’s wives and all other women who opposed Thatcher, not because of their gender, but because of what they stood for.

(SC + PIX + IZZI) [from our Facebook page]

When we as feminists call out Caitlin Moran for racism, when we call out transphobic radical feminists — we hope to make some points about how a feminism without intersectionality isn’t a feminism we want any part of, and why bigotry isn’t feminist.

When we call FEMEN out for racism, we hope to do the same. Izzi is a Muslim and a feminist; no one is asking her to stand in solidarity with FEMEN just because they are women.

One of these pages on FB has a massive focus on intersectionality normally; we were BEYOND pissed off. Pix is the member raised in poverty by a single mum and DV survivor. Pix’s mum used to go without food to feed her and her siblings. And Pix’s mum and women like her were vilified by the government of the time. (See study here)

Pix is 33 and joked, ‘I feel like aping the bad Vietnam movie trope of “YOU WEREN’T THERE, MAN.”’

When you laud Thatcher as a feminist icon, you erase that experience. You uphold a racist, homophobic, classist woman who was probably one of the best examples of internalised misogyny to ever hit the halls of power in the UK, or as one of our members put it, ‘Holding Thatcher up as a feminist icon is like kicking intersectionality in the stomach.’

Thatcherism is alive and well in the UK today. We dare American feminists to say that she is a feminist icon to feminists with disabilities in the UK, when they fail to consider her legacy, in the demonization of the working class and people on benefits, disability hate crimes as result of Tory rhetoric, and the ATOS medical tests that have deemed people fit for work who later died, or committed suicide in 2012. We dare them to say that to women like Pix, and her mum, who lived in social housing whilst it was being sold off, and communities in these less affluent areas crumbled. (An excerpt from Owen Jones’s Chavs: The Demonisation Of The Working Class)

Another member found this today, from Tumblr. And it says what we were attempting to say so, so well.

My feminism doesn’t support women who go to immense lengths to cut services that directly help and benefit other women.

My feminism doesn’t support all women simply because they’re women.

My feminism doesn’t support women who use their power to plunder, steal and exacerbate class gaps.

My feminism doesn’t support warmongering and bigoted propaganda wielding.

My feminism doesn’t support anyone who upholds an apartheid state as the beacon of civilization while referring to resistance organizations as “terrorism”.

My feminism doesn’t support white supremacy, exploitation of the proletariat, imperialism and misogyny (wow, shocker, women can perpetuate misogyny!!!!) all of which thatcher was disgustingly guilty of.

My feminism doesn’t support women who reinforce the idea of a heteronormative nuclear family structure, while publicly referring to feminism as poison.

My feminism doesn’t support systematic oppression, full stop.

maarnayeri

So, American feminists, please THINK before you get all misty eyed about ‘The Iron Lady’. Please, don’t patronise British people in marginalised sections of our society. Please don’t erase our experiences, and don’t forget your intersectionality when it comes to Lady T.

With thanks,

Hampshire Feminist Collective

Further things you may want to read as to the political landscape of the 1980s in the UK:

20 thoughts on “An open letter to American feminists on the death of Margaret Thatcher

  1. Quite the passionate read. I enjoyed it and learned many things. As an American Feminist..I can honestly say I never considered her a feminist, however.. being a woman of power in our time is a difficult life, imagine how it was for Ms. Thatcher 50years ago before all the progress that has been made. I agree with you on her internalization of misogyny …and many women are guilty of it today. It pisses me off. But until all feminists come together and articulate a clear message of love, intelligence and strength generations and generations of women to come will not know which is the right path. Many American women have no idea how recently we were chained to the home raising the children, being beautiful punching bags for miserable failed men. We do have a choice now, unfortunately some of us are choosing to step backwards instead of forwards.

  2. Reblogged this on L i g h t y e a r s and commented:
    ” One cannot laud someone’s office whilst ignoring the crimes they do whilst there, and to reduce anyone to their gender is being sexist…We find the idea of forced solidarity with Thatcher based upon her gender highly patronising, and would rather celebrate the women of Greenham Common, the miner’s wives and all other women who opposed Thatcher, not because of their gender, but because of what they stood for.”

    Mga eksaktong salitang nagpaliwanag sa akin.

  3. No, aneliz, we will get to the “love and strength” bit only when we are wise enough no longer to be fooled that someone like Thatcher represented any sort of progress. She began by virtually denying the existence of her own mother and went down hill from there.

    This was an excellent and well-aimed rant. Please don’t be so defensive that you fail to read it thoroughly or fail to take on board the fact that many of us still live with the skewed, greedy, victim-blaming society Thatcher was so pleased to have created and that her acolytes seek to perpetuate – however many people get hurt in the process.

  4. She made sure she did NOTHING to assist any other women to a position of power. Anyone’s praise of her as a feminist is mis-placed and ill informed.

  5. Brilliant response to the bizarre canonization of such an evil creature by some feminists. Thatcher was vicious to women, the poor, the disabled, and queer people. Her legacy lives on in the man who recently talked about killing the disabled because they are too costly to keep alive. The world is better without Thatcher in power

  6. I am a man, I support feminism, in fact I believe eMANcipation is something that mostly should be achieved in Men, as it was (some of) the men that created the “superiour” attitude in the first place, superiority does not excist, as God, (In older religions, the Mother) created men in his image.
    Those that think they are Superiour, are actually inferiour, until they learn, then we are equal, maybee different in realm, but that is something else.
    The Daila Lama said; “The ones that will save the Earth, are the Western Women”, it is indeed possible, but only when free, and that is happening now, thanks for that.
    It was Men (not all Men though), and some single women like Thatcher, that destroyed creation so far, so it is us men that should help the Women, to clear up the mess.
    I hope one day the Daila Lama’s prediction comes true, he is a good example of an emancipated Man.
    And the World becomes One.

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