“The Iron Lady” arrived at my town’s tiny movie theatre and I went to see it last night with a friend. (And by tiny, I mean that the only other movie option for a Saturday night was “The Lorax” – not what I was wanting!) I love slow-paced, thoughtful films with great acting. Meryl Streep did an amazing job as Margaret Thatcher, I thought, and though I’m ashamed to admit I knew next to nothing about Thatcher’s life other than the obvious basics (i.e. first female Prime Minister of Britain), I left the theatre with plenty to think about.
I did know that Thatcher was a controversial political figure, hence the title of the movie, which could be interpreted as being less than complimentary. Indeed, the movie portrayed her downfall as being due to an unwillingness to concede on anything. She exhibits a rigidity as Prime Minister that makes her a rather unappealing character at times. Even her husband and children suffer from her ascent to power, since she seems to neglect everything else along the way.
Yet, there’s something extremely inspiring about her story, too. The daughter of a grocer, she did something truly amazing! This was emphasized by some of the camera shots of the parliamentarians, a sea of men in black suits, shiny shoes, and hats, punctuated by a bright dot of feminine colour in their midst – Thatcher wearing a blue skirt suit with heels. Her toughness is almost understandable, given the odds she had to beat in order to get to where she did. That takes an iron will, no matter what anyone says.
The film got me thinking about women in politics and wondering why we continue to be so under-represented in roles of world leadership. Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi, Angela Merckel, Dilma Rousseff, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, Aung San Suu Kyi, Hillary Clinton, and Kim Campbell are all easily named because they stand out; they’re rare, and special as a result! Why is that?
I do not believe that politics is “better suited” to men; that’s an archaic way of thinking, promoted by insecure men who want to hold on to their power. Yet maybe that attitude is still spilling over into society’s failing to encourage young women to pursue politics or give them the necessary opportunities. (Or maybe I’m completely deluded and that’s not the case at all! Correct me if you think I’m wrong.) Personally, I’ve never been all that interested in politics, so it’s not a career path I’d choose, but I blame that partly on the education system. Schools should emphasize the responsibility of citizens to learn how government works and become an active participants in their own governance, which is something I never received in school.
Because of the dearth of female world leaders, I think there’s actually tremendous opportunity for the women who do pursue that path. Women, such as myself, want to see women in power for a change. Men have shown what they can do – some better than others, as would also be the case with female leaders, I don’t doubt – but I have a strong desire to see female leaders simply on principle, to prove that the age-old gender inequality has shifted on all levels of society.
As a result, I like Margaret Thatcher more than ever now, though I may disagree with some of the things she did while in power. Sure, she may not have been the greatest, most conciliatory Prime Minister ever, but if the movie is at all accurate, wow, did she ever turn Britain’s government, not to mention the world, upside-down by achieving the near-impossible.