Tag Archives: Margaret Thatcher

One of the things Thatcher’s death made me think about

15 Apr

A comment made by Russell Brand in his article in The Guardian on the death of Margaret Thatcher provoked feminist outrage, and cries of “nobody ever says that about male politicians.” Or male anythings, really.

You could never call Margaret Mother by mistake, Brand writes. For a national matriarch she is oddly unmaternal. I always felt a bit sorry for her biological children Mark and Carol, wondering from whom they would get their cuddles. “Thatcher as mother” seemed, to my tiddly mind, anathema.

Of course it’s rare for male achievers to be considered from this perspective, and of course that can be a source of outrage to us women, seeming, as it does, to privilege our mothering abilities above and beyond anything else we can do, and do well. So we read obituaries of female scientists, for example, that begin with a tribute to their role as mothers, implying that no matter what else they might have done, their finest accomplishment was, well, mothering.

This feminist refrain has become so familiar to me over the years it’s become reified. I hear it and think, oh yes, that’s right isn’t it, and move on.

This morning I found myself thinking about my sons. They have done well in their chosen fields. I’m enormously proud of them. I’m delighted when they achieve another goal. I’m proud of how they love their female partners, and I don’t hesitate to tell them if they aren’t being fair. They may not listen, but I tell them anyway.

One son  seems quite proud of having been brought up by a feminist. Another claims it probably trashed him. This one bore the brunt, as an adolescent, of me going back to university, and then me and his Dad parting company. I will never forget one screaming, tearful encounter between us when he was having difficulties with his stepmother that were, of course, all my fault. “If you hadn’t gone back to university and got political,” he yelled at me, “none of this would ever have happened and we’d still all be living in the same house!”

In a way, he was quite right.

But what I realised this morning is that while I’m proud of them for just about everything, the thing that really makes me go weak at the knees is watching my sons with their children. As dads, they are, to my mind, amazing. I know they learned a lot from their own Dad, who was an excellent and very loving Dad. But they surpass him, and I’m sure, me.

For example, when the newest baby arrived last week, his dad stripped off his shirt in the delivery room, said he didn’t need them to clean the infant up, and took him in his arms for skin to skin contact while the baby’s mother was temporarily unavailable.

I would make this the first line in anyone’s obit.

Is it demeaning them, for me to think of and treasure these young men first as brilliant, loving Dads, and second as successful young men in all their other roles? If it’s offensive to think of women in that way, surely it must be equally offensive to transfer that thinking to men?

No, I don’t think it is demeaning to honour a man’s dadness. What’s wrong is that we hardly ever do it.

We should acknowledge a man’s role in his family life, just as we do a woman’s. I don’t think it’s sexist and demeaning to honour a woman’s role as mother.  We are throwing the baby out with the bath water in demanding that women are not first spoken of in terms of our love for our children and our role as mothers. We need to keep doing that and we need to start speaking in these same terms about men a whole lot more than we do.


Bob Ellis: Oh, why can’t a woman be more like a man?

31 Dec

Bob Ellis is a very good writer. Like Christopher Hitchens, with whom Ellis enjoyed drinking privileges, one may not always agree with his content but his form is generally erudite and entertaining. Ellis’s review of the new film about Margaret Thatcher, “The Iron Lady”, published here at ABC The Drum, is no exception. Written with Bob’s unquenchable passion for language, it’s an eloquent review.

Unfortunately it also contains more than Ellis’s usual quota of reactionary misogynist crap, as do several of the comments he makes in response to his readers. Ellis manages to turn his review of a biopic which he feels should have been a political back room drama, into a thinking(?) bloke’s cri de couer that women ruined this movie. First of all by writing it, and second of all by not having the capacity for creating political back room drama to anything like the standard of that created by men.

While Ellis may have a point here, and political back room dramas (not always good ones) do indeed flow more easily from keyboards operated by male fingers, his explanation for this discrepancy is nothing short of insane. According to Bob, it’s because we’re female. That’s it. Our cunts govern our brains, to our everlasting detriment, and because we bleed we are “less good at disagreeing with ourselves” than are those of you who are possessed of hairy balls and pricks that produce semen (and political back room dramas) in glorious milky fountains. Sometimes.

The fact that women have not been allowed to participate in political back room life to anything like the extent and for anything like the period of time afforded to men, seems to have escaped Mr Ellis’s notice.

What is actually FAR more remarkable is that given the male domination of politics of all kinds, not just back room, there is such a paucity of good political drama available.I mean really, Ellis and those who agree with him, you’ve had centuries of experience and opportunity denied to us, in fact its only been in the last two that women have had any real input at all.

In spite of your total blokey domination of the political scene for all of human history, hardly any of you, comparatively speaking, have come up with political dramas that anyone will bother to remember. I could probably count them on my fingers and toes, plus another woman’s, and that doesn’t say much for thousands of years of male political domination, now does it?

Maybe there aren’t too many of you either who can “disagree with themselves” to the extent required for good back room political drama. Comparatively speaking. There’s a lot of male dross out there.

“The male impulse to power” Ellis claims, “is better understood, as a rule, by men.” I call bullshit, Ellis. There’s nobody understands the male impulse to power better than those whose lives are governed by it, whether they’re male or female. The male impulse to power is tragically generally NOT understood by the men who exercise it, understanding being of far less importance to such men than action, regardless of consequences. Indeed, understanding weakens this hegemonic masculinity.

The female impulse to power could be claimed to be equally misunderstood by men, usually because of the terror they experience when confronted by it. This impulse is increasingly channelled into hegemonic masculinity as more women take up influential political roles. None of this has anything to do with our cunts, and everything to do with the narrow biological imperatives imposed on us solely because we have them.

Ellis unforgivably imputes a creative intention to the writers of “The Iron Lady,” an intention that is in fact entirely his own, or would be if he’d been writing the script. Which he wasn’t. Maybe nobody asked him. How slack of them, considering he knew Maggie for three days, really really liked her legs, and was seduced by her breathless flirtatiousness. Ellis assumes it was the writers’ intention to create a back room political drama, in what could only ever be an imitative attempt to keep up with back room initiates like him. He then trashes the result, because in his book the attempt failed. He then extrapolates the trashing to the entire female sex, and says we can’t do it like they can. Because we’re women.

The more serious question here is why Ellis is compelled to frame so many of his arguments as gender wars, and more than usually stupid ones at that. A movie is not what he expects, or what he would have liked. Suddenly this is a statement about the inferiority of women, based entirely on our sex, without any context at all, political or otherwise.

Replace “women” with “Jews” or “Palestinians” or “Chinese” or “Germans.” Yes. It’s not pretty, is it.

Somebody besides her mum loves Julia Gillard

2 Jan

Little Miss Piggy in the middle. By Leonard John Matthews. flickr

Julia Gillard: a breath of fresh air for Aussies

Australia’s PM rises above the usual rough and tumble of federal politics – and her mother will stop her becoming a Thatcher

by Dorothy Rowe, in the Guardian,December 20 2010

My hero is Julia Gillard, Australia’s prime minister. Her predecessor, Kevin Rudd, has many great qualities but knowing how to be a leader is not one of them. His party forced him to resign and Gillard, until then his deputy, took his place. Australian federal politics is rough, loud and often vicious. Gillard knew this well and she had developed a way of speaking that is slow, clear and determined. Her wit is sharp, intelligent and funny, and often surprises and silences her critics. She is well versed in conducting a long-running, rational and informed debate. Michael O’Connor of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, who knew her well, warned: “You didn’t really want to be arguing a point of view against her if you could avoid an argument with her. She was very serious about winning it.

A debate with someone who holds opposing views but is well informed and rational is difficult, but it can be both productive and clarifying. However, the leader of the opposition, Tony Abbott, aka the mad monk, scorns both rationality and facts. He provides the soundbites that the media loves, so he grabs the headlines and creates confusion and much misinformation. Gillard has the task of maintaining, not just for herself but for her audience, clarity of purpose. She must not sink to the level of mere abuse, as is popular in Australian politics, but must continue to present herself as being imperturbable. A knife under the ribs rather than a bludgeon over the head.

All too often in my life I have welcomed a particular leader as a hero, only to see him or her ignore Lord Acton’s warning: “All power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” I was worried that, as a successful Labor leader, Gillard would be corrupted by power until I read that her mother, on learning that Julia had become PM, said that her daughter would be “the best [prime minister] there is”, adding: “So long as she doesn’t turn into Maggie Thatcher.”

With a wise mother like that Julia Gillard might yet become the rarest of leaders, one who is not corrupted by power.


No Place for Sheep replied, in its usually restrained manner:

Dorothy Rowe – where are you getting this information?

We don’t like Julia Gillard.
Her voice makes us want to throw ourselves out of windows.
She IS Thatcher, but in a faux velvet glove
She is a robot produced by the ALP party machine with all humanity leached out of her.
Moving forward! Moving Forward! she shrieks at us like a demented darlik.

It is estimated that she is losing 120 votes per hour for the ALP.
She has no backbone, no spine and no moral compass.
She looks NOTHING like your photograph of her.
I cannot begin to tell you how little respect this woman has in this country and it’s getting less and less every day.

Did her mum pay you to write this twaddle?
UK people, please listen! Our PM is really, really, really the worst PM we have ever had and that is saying a lot because we have not been blessed in this regard.

I think your article is a total disgrace, Ms Rowe.You sooo do not know what you are talking about and you shouldn’t be peddling this un-researched twaddle.

PS The photo you used is an airbrushed one by the Women’s Weekly.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011

PPS: People have remonstrated with me about these comments, saying that I have been unkind to Ranga. Haven’t they read any Comments sections lately? They are not for the faint-hearted, and these are quite mild compared to some responses to this article.

Be that as it may, I don’t wish to be unkind, even if I am talking about a once highly trusted deputy prime minister, given enormous power and prestige by the boss who had nothing but faith in her abilities and loyalty, only to find her dagger lodged in his heart.

As Ghandi said, an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind and I shouldn’t be vengeful. It’s not like I was that happy with Ruddy. It’s just the principle.

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