April 17 2013
Hoff Sommers: The Real Femininity of Margaret Thatcher
Quote of the Day (so far):
Even after her death, critics revile Britain’s brilliant, trail-blazing leader and liberator as ‘unfeminine.’ Yet she reveled in her femininity throughout her career, charming men and women alike.
That’s the subhead on a terrific piece on Margaret Thatcher, whose funeral took place just hours ago this morning in London, by Christina Hoff Sommers.
Like the late Prime Minister, Hoff Sommers--who was reviled by feminists when Who Stole Feminism? came out in 1994--knows something about feminist ire.
So it is particularly fitting that Hoff Sommers write about Thatcher as a woman who was hated by feminists and yet never lost her genuine femininity.
Hoff Sommers would never, as President Obama tried to do in his yucky “inspiration for our daughters” tribute to Thatcher, reduce Lady Thatcher to somebody who broke a supposed glass ceiling. She knows that Thatcher should be an inspiration to our daughters and our sons!
And Hoff Sommers has an interesting take on Lady T’s femininity:
[W]hat was the source of her great strengths? She had read Adam Smith and Friedrich Hayek and absorbed their lessons about the virtues of the free market and the dangers of collectivism. But she was at least equally inspired by what we may call home economics — the homespun bourgeois aphorisms she had learned as a child. “My policies,” said Mrs. T, “are based not on some economics theory, but on things I and millions like me were brought up with ... An honest day's work for an honest day's pay; live within your means; put by a nest egg for a rainy day; pay your bills on time; support the police.”
Like a determined housewife faced with domestic anarchy, she went about setting the country right. As Thatcher said in her 1979 campaign, “Any woman who understands the problems of running a home will be nearer to understanding the problems of running the country.” She confronted and defeated predatory trade unionists, sold off government-owned housing and industries, and reduced the top tax rate from 98 to 40 percent. Most of all, she tried to revive the British tradition of individual initiative and personal responsibility. Thatcherism did not solve all of Britain’s problems, but it brought it back from the brink.
Critics have reviled her for being an ambitious and “unfeminine” opportunist. In the 1988 Washington Monthly article “” Polly Toynbee called her a “surrogate man” who had “betrayed women not only politically but spiritually.” To prove she was “one of the boys,” said Toynbee, Thatcher was “twice as brutal” and “twice as savage.” But Thatcher was neither: she was in fact stern and dutiful. Those virtues come in both feminine and masculine varieties, and Thatcher’s were decidedly feminine.
A colleague of mine recalls introducing Thatcher at a Washington forum in the mid-nineties. They had been discussing politics and going over the substance of her talk with great intensity. Then, when it came time to take the podium, she arranged her hair, checked her lipstick in her compact mirror, and leaned into him with a hint of anxiety, asking, “How do I look?” He was charmed by this quintessentially female gesture. Throughout her career, men and women were charmed and, more than once, smitten by her charismatic femininity.
Hoff Sommers also links to Andrew Sullivan’s tribute to Thatcher as the person who saved his old country. It’s vintage Sullivan—the kind of high-quality stuff he used to write.