How Would Margaret Thatcher Have Fared?
'The Iron Lady' was a pioneer on many fronts, but could she have endured the verbal assaults many conservative women in the 21st century are forced to endure?
"It was illuminating to see how vehemently people responded to Margaret Thatcher - she was either vilified or cast into sainthood…In the political arena, women are cast into these divergent lights.” -Meryl Streep on playing Margaret Thatcher.
In a recent interview, actress Meryl Streep responded to former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee's question about her experience playing “The Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher. The actress, known for her immersion into the characters she portrays, was overtly critical of the cost borne by our public servants, most notably by women in politics. Though she offered little insight into the "why," she adroitly said that "what it means to be a political woman leader is to take hatred and venom on yourself.”
Rather than speculating on why women in politics are frequently reduced to villains or saints, the methodology of how this happens and why the hatred and venom is allowed should be addressed.
The more well known conservative women who have recently run for higher office—Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Sharron Angle, Meg Whitman, Nikki Haley and others, provoked a visceral reaction from the public. Each of these women is either loved or hated and there appears to be little middle ground. But what seems more surprising than the polarizing reactions with their supporters and detractors, is the vicious, shame-based nature of the personal attacks.
The conservative woman highlights a more traditional role, and it is that very noose upon which she is hung. In every race of significance in recent history, women are debased in one of three ways, all of which goes to the core of destroying the "idea" of being a "traditional" conservative. Women are categorized as being promiscuous, flaky or called the "b" word. Though men are likewise "called out," the shame element for women is exponential because it carries a personal connotation that cuts deeper. Whether she is called "flaky" when trying to be taken seriously, the "b" word for firing staff or labeled promiscuous in a political landscape where family values are paramount, the ramifications are far different from those of her male counterparts.
Why is this tolerated and why is it acceptable to disparage woman in politics with such brutality? It would be seen as unacceptable to use the "N" word; assuredly the pejorative term "racism" would be invoked. Yet, with women there are no off-limit rules. The only "off limits" as it relates to women in politics is the "boomerang effect" in the voting booth when smear tactics have gone too far. The political conservative woman is your sister, your mother, your wife and your daughter. She deserves more than the hatred and venom that Meryl Streep described. The objectification and debasement of women in politics has been tolerated because conservative woman lending themselves to public office are so few in numbers. They are unique in their desire to run, knowing the likelihood of the public reaction and as a group they are often misunderstood. Because the conservative woman is more the anomaly than the norm, spotlighting destructive, purposeful debasement of women lending themselves to the public foray has a host of challenges. But the message is easy, "venom" should be unacceptable, and with certain consequences. The result of continuing as we are is that women will decline to enter into politics. The best and brightest women will place their talents elsewhere and women in political leadership positions will continue to decline.
Margret Thatcher was a unique woman who wielded tremendous power and influence, with a life of untold sacrifices. She earned the title, "The Iron Lady" from her years of "withstanding" and according to Streep, had more “stamina and spine” than imaginable. Her resistance to personal attacks allowed her to persevere when others would have yielded.
The advent of the 21st century media scrutiny was absent from Mrs. Thatcher's political career. One wonders how she would have handled the intense "spotlight" where every foible and frailty is exposed and amplified with iPhones, social media, Youtube, Twitter and more...probably with the same wit and charm that was captured when she said, "I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because I think, well if they attack me personally, it means that they have not a single argument left".
What an example, lady and era.
Note: Streep has been nominated for an Academy Award for her performance as Thatcher. The awards are to be given out on Sunday.
-Palladian View--Conservative Women See Their Voice.