sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

April 23, 2013

Ill-Mannered Women Seldom Make History

Filed under: feminism, politics, Soviet Union — Tags: , , , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 11:34 am

I came out of my parenting funk last week to learn that Margaret Thatcher, one of the greatest champions of freedom in our era, had passed away. Chihuahuas were barking mad, of course, but as Mark Steyn tells us, Lady Thatcher was the kind who’d savor the fury:

Mrs. Thatcher would have enjoyed all this. Her former speechwriter John O’Sullivan recalls how, some years after leaving office, she arrived to address a small group at an English seaside resort to be greeted by enraged lefties chanting “Thatcher Thatcher Thatcher! Fascist fascist fascist!” She turned to her aide and cooed, “Oh, doesn’t it make you feel nostalgic?” She was said to be delighted to hear that a concession stand at last year’s Trades Union Congress was doing a brisk business in “Thatcher Death Party Packs,” almost a quarter-century after her departure from office.

The finger!  The finger!

The whiniest of all chihuahuas Morrissey opposes Thatcher on animal welfare grounds or some such. He certainly aged… but the good news is that he’s still alive. Who knew?  Morrissey was one of those entertainers who were big in the West, but gained virtually no traction in the Soviet Union.  We preferred classic rock and heavy metal.

And here is another quote from the infinitely quotable late Prime Minister:

“I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding,” she once said, “Because I think, well, if they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left.”

“They” certainly lost a lot of arguments.  Steyn summed up the legacy of Lady Thatcher’s domestic policies:

Thatcherite denationalization was the first thing Eastern Europe did after throwing off its Communist shackles — although the fact that recovering Soviet client states found such a natural twelve-step program at Westminster testifies to how far gone Britain was. She was the most consequential woman on the world stage since Catherine the Great, and Britain’s most important peacetime prime minister. In 1979, Britain was not at war, but as much as in 1940 faced an existential threat.

Mrs. Thatcher saved her country — and then went on to save a shriveling “free world,” and what was left of its credibility. The Falklands were an itsy bitsy colonial afterthought on the fringe of the map, costly to win and hold, easy to shrug off — as so much had already been shrugged off. After Vietnam, the Shah, Cuban troops in Africa, Communist annexation of real estate from Cambodia to Afghanistan to Grenada, nobody in Moscow or anywhere else expected a Western nation to go to war and wage it to win. Jimmy Carter, a ditherer who belatedly dispatched the helicopters to Iran only to have them crash in the desert and sit by as cocky mullahs poked the corpses of U.S. servicemen on TV, embodied the “leader of the free world” as a smiling eunuch. Why in 1983 should the toothless arthritic British lion prove any more formidable? [Emphasis mine, — ed.]

My grade school years coincided with Margaret Thatcher’s tenure as Prime Minister and Ronald Reagan’s Presidency.  The Soviet media vilified both of them ferociously, but to our family they were friends.  We had family members who were trying to leave the Soviet Union, and we appreciated the unwavering support both Thatcher and Reagan expressed for Soviet dissidents and refusniks.

Regardless of family background, my generation loved action flicks and coveted blue jeans and bootleg rock music.  But it was up to the political leaders to explain the value of freedom.  Back in the 80s, Western leaderships projected optimism and confidence.  They showed us why capitalism was successful, and why it was worth imitating.  Maggie, Ronny and rock-n-roll were the picture of the West that I grew up with.

Maggie’s opinion was valued.  My grandma, who always got her news from the Russian Services of the BBC and the Voice of America, was heartened when the BBC broadcasted the Iron Lady’s opinion of Gorbachev: he was the man she can do business with.  That was the seal of approval Eastern Europe craved.

The Iron Lady is greeted by Moscowites in 1987 at the beginning of Gorbachev’s short tenure

Here is Oleg Atbashian — who is a couple of years older than me and has a more mature recollection of that period — on listening to Maggie on shortwave radio (click on the link for a cool poster).  He tuned in for rock-n-roll and stayed for politics:

 One night — it had to be late 1982, when Margaret Thatcher was running for her first re-election — my shortwave radio caught a BBC broadcast of the Iron Lady’s campaign speech.

Listening to Thatcher speak confirmed everything the Soviet media was reporting about her, and more. In a deep, powerful voice, she accused her socialist opponents of destroying the British economy through nationalization and presented the proof of how privatizing it again was bringing the economy back to life. The free markets worked as expected, making Britain strong again. The diseased socialist welfare state had to go, to be replaced by a healthy competitive society.

To the average consumer of the Soviet state-run media, that didn’t make any sense. When exactly had Britain become a socialist welfare state? That part never passed the Soviet media filter.


The next logical question would be this: if Great Britain wasn’t yet as socialist as the Soviet Union, then didn’t it mean that whatever freedom, prosperity, and working economy it had left were directly related to having less socialism? And if less socialism meant a freer, more productive, and more prosperous nation, then wouldn’t it be beneficial to have as little socialism as possible? Or perhaps — here’s a scary thought — to just get rid of socialism altogether? [Emphasis mine, –ed.]

My readers are welcome to dispute me, but I prefer Maggie to Ronny.  For one, the Iron Lady’s task of privatization was infinitely greater than anything Ronald Reagan had to face.  For another, I’m absolutely in awe of her speaking style.  Reagan was a great orator, full of passion, insights and spontaneity.  But Thatcher, ooow, her zingers were deadly.

I think it’s instructive that while the left talks incessantly about female empowerment, the actual great female leaders are conservative.  In part it’s because feminism is a false idol.  A non-Y-chromosomed Western politician too attached to the sisterhood is limiting herself.  The work of female emancipation now entails such all-important projects like providing already cheap birth control for free.  A woman with a vision, like Margaret Thatcher, has to have greater goals in mind.  Plus, if the story of Sarah Palin teaches us anything about the women’s movement, it’s that we, women, can be nasty and envious.

Since the second wave feminists taught women that personal is political, which really means that nothing is personal.  One’s choice of occupation, of clothing, of, notoriously, coital position, belongs to the sisterhood.  Feminism is a way of life, and as far as lifestyle advise goes, this one is highly questionable.  Per feminist bumper sticker wisdom, “Well-behaved women seldom make history”.  A now middle-aged death rocker we know has that one on her car.  There are plenty of obediently ridiculous women in the feminist movement, from raging grannies in pink to slut walks.  Is it worth it?

I’m sure it’s all very convenient in short term given how young ladies have all the rationale to party, but I pity the “girls” who will not, in a matter of year or two, grow to regret their participation.  The Ukrainian group Femen is selective high-end international version of slut walks.  I have to give it to them, they know how to get their egos massaged.  Occasionally, their protests have a kind of logic to it.  If one has to remove her bra for a cause, flash islamists.  Ultimately, though, they are dead-enders (via Leslie Lofties) destined to be a footnote to history.  If they get an honorable mention in history books, students struggling to figure out the narrative will wonder if they really need to know about partially naked women who once grabbed headlines.

Margaret Thatcher will get an entire chapter. I’m not sure she was “well-behaved”, certainly not by the standards of the socialist Left, but she was a lady, and as such she commanded attention and respect.  When the Meryl Streep film came out in 2011, Margaret Thatcher’s personal style became a popular topic of discussion, which is a bit silly.  It’s the women’s movement that’s about style, and the more outrageous, the better.  Morrissey is about style.  The Iron Lady was about substance.

Iconic Maggie, cheerful on the day she was elected, 4 May 1979.  Power, optimism, substance

A side note:  Margaret Thatcher had her twins when she was 28 — early by today’s standards.  She slowly developed her career and went on to be the most powerful woman in the world.  Had she waited another ten years to start her family, she’d spent her 40s carrying for young children, not moving up the Tory political ladder.  There is a lesson there.

And, oh, look how slender this mother of twins was — because she gave birth in her 20s?



  1. Beautiful post, Missy. I don’t blame you a bit for favoring Lady Thatcher to Pres Reagan. I think it’s that dry, razor sharp English humor.

    As a grade school student in southern US, I never even heard about Margaret Thatcher. It was all “America v. Soviet Union,” and depending who you listened to, sometimes we were the bad guys, sometimes we were the good guys. It was kind of confusing. My teachers generally fell on the correct side of history, which helped.

    and yeah. that whole “well behaved seldom make history” thing is rather ironic.


    Comment by nooneofanyimport — April 23, 2013 @ 7:15 pm

    • She was a huge hero to us.
      Perhaps in the 80s she seemed like another competent Western leader here. The world was different.

      Comment by edge of the sandbox — April 26, 2013 @ 10:58 pm

  2. My mind meld with Lin might be spreading to you, right down to how wrong that silly cliche about well behaved women and achievement. A while back, our vicar’s wife was running our Tuesday Bible study. She told us of a couple in the US. Wealthy enough to retire comfortably and early, they moved to Florida and spent the second half of their lives collecting seashells. They liked seashells. It was a shared hobby. But the vicar’s wife challenged us: with so many advantages from time to money, when they came to the Pearly Gates, what would they say? “Here, God. Here are my seashells.”

    When Margaret Thatcher passed one of the dailies ran a “caption this” cartoon of Thatcher standing at the Pearly Gates. The contest, of course, called for the best caption. I considered submitting an entry, but mine ran far longer than a cartoon caption. For damn sure she had more to offer than seashells. I imagine something more like:

    St. Peter: Ah, Margaret, welcome. And you bring gifts–not strictly necessary, of course, but common. Yes, as I expected, the other half of the bear pelt cloak your friend Ronald showed up with a few years ago.
    MT: Ragged is the thing is, I’m rather disappointed in it. As you know, it’s made from the pelt of Soviet Communism. I left it in my dustbin until my time came to present it here. I had hoped it would have disintegrated by now, but the stitching, done by Walter Duranty and his apprentices, while it has long since split and frayed, a few stubborn embroidered flourishes remain. Too many refuse to see the shoddy craftsmanship and insist on trying to replicate the work and so the cursed thing hasn’t yet turned to dust.
    St. Peter: Sadly, we here are all too familiar with willful blindness. But still, this tattered pelt is a rare and fine gift, Margaret. And only your start I see…

    Thatcher’s passing left me feeling challenged, inadequate in a “To whom much is given, much is required” sort of way. Since the vicar’s wife’s tale, I have used the imagery of ‘more than seashells’ for drive. But seashells aren’t much of a hurdle. Striving for something like the bear pelt, however, that is a great challenge. And even if I fall short, way short, I will still have more than seashells.

    As for Thatcher as a woman, again right, even down to the earlier timing of her children. In so many ways delayed childbearing is shortsighted. Another blogger at Bloody Brill noticed something interesting about the coverage too.

    Comment by AHLondon — April 23, 2013 @ 7:44 pm

    • “If you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.” That’s something Russians would appreciated very much because that’s how things are done — if they are done– in Russia. I didn’t know about that aphorism.
      I hate “caption this” contests. I can’t produce anything sharp and brief on demand. Actually, I can’t produce anything on demand, period.

      Comment by edge of the sandbox — April 26, 2013 @ 10:57 pm

      • “I can’t produce anything on demand” me too, my friend.

        Comment by AHLondon — April 27, 2013 @ 6:07 am

        • LOL me neither! Especially the sharp and brief. Makes twitter especially challenging. Hope you and your family are doing well, Missy Lady!

          Comment by nooneofanyimport — May 8, 2013 @ 8:33 am

  3. Reblogged this on kjmhoffman.

    Comment by jkmhoffman — April 25, 2013 @ 6:39 am

  4. There were only TWO women of the 1950’s and 60’s who made it to the top of their political pyramid without family ties to help them: Maggie Thatcher and Golda Meir. And both have been sneered at by the ‘feminist’ movement’. Interesting, eh?

    Comment by heathermc — April 25, 2013 @ 4:43 pm

    • I’m trying to think of counterexamples (because that’s how I am) and I can’t. there is a lot of women in politics these days, but in my opinion they are all footnotes, exept for Sarah Palin (who is a very, very , very long footnote, most likely, thanks to the feminist movement).

      Comment by edge of the sandbox — April 26, 2013 @ 10:48 pm

      • I’ve been meaning to come back for this (trying to write one of those not on demand pieces) but off the top of my head and hoping the timing is right: Sandra Day O’Connor, Erma Bombeck, Phyllis Shafley, Benazir Bhutto, to a lesser extent, Betty Friedan, who was very influential but then ousted. I assume Teresa May and Condi Rice are too young for this list?
        I was at a Ann Marie Slaughter interview last week and she started with a story about telling her son who John Kerry was, that if Obama got reelected, Kerry would likely be nominated to SecState. Between the US and UK recent history, he asked, ”A man can be Secretary of State?”

        Comment by AHLondon — April 27, 2013 @ 6:30 am

        • I’ll give you Sandra Day O’Connor (altho it is probable she was nominated BECAUSE of her sex); Benazir Bhutto was the daughter of a powerful (and hanged) Pak politician. Erma Bombeck, Phyllis Shafley have been writers, and Betty Friedan was important because of her position in the new woman’s movement.
          Thatcher and Meir did not gain their political positions because of their sex, or some relationship with a father or husband (eg, the Ghandis, the prime minister of Ceylon, etc.): they got there because of their excellent political instincts. I think that Thatcher was truly hated in large part BECAUSE of her sex though. She was undermined by such stellar types as John Major… gutless eunuchs, who could not stand taking orders from a woman who was a lot smarter than any of them.

          As to Sarah Palin, she has the guts and brains of Maggie Thatcher. It is a measure of America’s weakness that she has been so undermined. Men don’t like to be dominated in the manner that Palin does with such ease. As Mark Steyn has said, only America could produce a Palin. Oh well. .

          Comment by heathermc — April 27, 2013 @ 8:00 pm

  5. […] Ill-Mannered Women Seldom Make History […]

    Pingback by Satuday Links: Facebook Friend Pictures Edition, Volume 65 - Conservative Hideout 2.0 — April 27, 2013 @ 4:03 am

  6. What’s ironic is the Left seems so upset that she closed off the last of the unprofitable, polluting, dirty coal industry. The Left just really showed their hypocrisy. It’s like… if you’re a woman don’t behave but do it only in the way we tell you.

    A great lesson for little girls everywhere.

    Comment by Harrison — April 29, 2013 @ 10:33 pm

  7. […] been meaning to write a Maggie Thatcher pick-me-up fashion post.  Although I said in the past that the late prime minister will be dismembered first and foremost as a champion of freedom, being […]

    Pingback by Style and Fashion: Just Add A String of Pearls | sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue — May 23, 2013 @ 12:39 pm

  8. […] had their Perestroika, so now he wants one here.  He probably didn’t know that Reagan and Thatcher inspired us, and he probably chose not to know that the real dissidents (Yelena Bonner, Nathan […]

    Pingback by In the Future, Everybody Will Be a Dissident for 15 Minutes | sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue — October 17, 2013 @ 5:13 pm

  9. […] mimic the part time and freelance schedule compatible with mothering young children. Would Margaret Thatcher have been as successful if she had children later? Would her life have been as full if she […]

    Pingback by The Facile Fix: More and/or Better Nurseries | An American Housewife — October 30, 2013 @ 7:44 am

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