Or Queen Bee syndrome.
In an attempt to discourage further comments on my previous Thatcher post, I thought a quick new one was needed.
While I love all your thoughtful and intelligent comments, it’s difficult for people to read through so many. Well, it’s difficult for me, so it must be difficult for others. My blog, I’m right, and all that. So here is a new post. Even though I really want to take some time out ….
So if you want to say any more about Thatcher, say it on here. Where I shall be concentrating on her position as the first woman British PM and what she did/didn’t do for women.
Here are some facts:
1) She was Britain’s first woman prime minister, and the first in western Europe.
2) She was, of course, as a female head of state, preceded by the famous trio of Golda Meir (Israel), Indira Gandhi (India) and Bandaranaike (Ceylon/Sri Lanka) all of whom I grew up with. Not literally I hasten to add, they didn’t live in Yorkshire. Plus two others, making her not just Britain’s first woman prime minister, not just western Europe’s first, but only the sixth in the world.(The other two came from the Ukraine and Africa). Linky to Clouds post about women leaders.
3) In eleven years of power she appointed one woman to her Cabinets, the intensely homophobic Baroness Young, who seemed to spend a large part of her life opposing gay rights.
So, at a quick glance, she did stuff all to promote women to positions of power ie in her Cabinet. Unless of course, they didn’t like gays.
Were there really no women around back in the 1980s who were good enough to make the Cabinet?
Her successor John Major, on the other hand, managed a superb 100% increase on that, appointing not just one, but two women to the Cabinet – Gillian Shepherd and Virginia Bottomley. Naturally they were in the two traditional soft women’s areas of, yes, Shepherd – education, and Bottomley – health. Hello, teacher, hello nurse. That’s all women can manage. Nothing tough like foreign secretary, finance, environment, employment, the list goes on ……
Although if you include Thatcher there were two women in her Cabinets.
Blair, on the other hand managed an astonishing five or six in his Cabinets.
Zapatero (elected in 2004 Spain), appointed his Cabinet, or whatever they call it in Spain, fifty fifty women and men.
But the question is should Thatcher have done anything for women? And if not, why not?
Well, let’s return to Queen Bees.
I first encountered this in the civil service. Working under the Thatcher government as it happened. As chance had it, I was the first and only woman to be appointed to my press office. Health and Safety wasn’t really a girly sort of thing.
But the civil service being an equal ops sort of place, off I went on a course for women managers. Because we need courses, us girls, as we don’t know how to manage.
Natch, this course, focused on how we should all dress because women need to be judged on how they look. Sadly I’ve never been on a men’s management course, so I have no idea how much of the time is devoted to what colour tie to wear.
We had a long session on assertiveness training because women are incapable of saying no. Um, really?
Or, when we try to say no, we start with, ‘I’m sorry but …’ etc.
Don’t think Margaret had too many problems with saying No.
I did learn about Queen Bees though. The course wasn’t all about the right suit and the right to say no.
Queen Bees are basically women managers who don’t want other women around. In my organisation at the time, we had one of those. She headed up her department, luckily not mine, and kept the women down. Even the men managed to work out that one.
Later, in the health service, I worked for another one, when Virginia Bottomley, one of Major’s two women Cabinet members, was going big on womens’ rights and we had some silly equal ops drive.
It was so silly that naturally my organisation promptly appointed a man to head it. When I complained – there were a fair amount of intelligent women around – I got dumped with it. C’est la vie.
However, our chair was a woman. A blue rinse Tory Madam Chairman to be accurate (until I sneaked into the board) and started referring to her as chair of the board (please boys this is not the much-promised PC linguistic post, you will have to wait for that one, so no boring comments about chairs are for sitting on are allowed).
On discussing the membership of our health authority board, which was meant to be equally made up of men and women, and reflect the local ethnic population, she said to one of my former colleagues (a Queen Bee and vicious bitch of the first order I might add) ‘But if I’m the chairman we don’t need any other women do we?’
Which pretty much summarises Thatcher. She was there, she had made it, who gave a shit about other women? She was no feminist. She could have done a lot for women, but she chose not to. Shame. But which woman leader of state has done?
In a man’s world, and in a patriarchal society, because that’s what we live in, women need to fight by the same rules, and play the same games to get anywhere. Doing soppy stuff for women’s rights isn’t tough enough.
So that’s why Thatcher (and other women leaders) have done little or nothing to advance women’s rights. They aren’t even in a position to do so. They have to focus on all those hard macho issues. Finance, shooting the shit out of people in foreign lands, and ruffy tuffy stuff.
And, the latest British kerfuffle is about her funeral. Do I care? (No). Technically it is not a state funeral, but a so-called ceremonial one which is one step down. Waste of money in my view, but so is much of public expenditure.
Why does she merit that? Or the attendance of the Queen? Probably because since Churchill she is the only British PM who went to war (Falklands) in defence of the realm and won. That is no mean achievement.