On the weekend I watched the film The Iron Lady. Four days later, I am still angry. Why, you may ask? Because the portrayal of Baroness Margaret Thatcher as a demented old woman is a reinforcement of stereotypes that keep the glass ceiling in place.
I understand this is only a movie. I understand that artistic license is an important aspect of film arts. I agree that Meryl Streep is a formidable actor and her performance was exceptional. I also understand that during her political career Mrs. Thatcher ruffled more than a few feathers. But, set that aside and focus on the gender issue.
Approximately 80% of the film focusses on Mrs. Thatcher’s current mental state (she is 86 and it was reported in 2008 that she suffers from dementia). The remaining 20% glossed over her career, with the majority of this portion focussed on the Falkland’s War. The portrayal was vague and unclear. Anyone too young to remember her time as Prime Minister or not familiar with history would not be able to follow the storyline.
Can you imagine a biopic that portrays Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill or any other powerful male leader as being a frail and demented old man? Or see them being publicly addressed by household staff and security personnel by only their first names? Never! So then why is it acceptable to diminish the accomplishments of a powerful female leader with this type of representation?
Regardless of your political views, let me point out a few impressive milestones in Baroness Thatcher’s career:
- Ran in 1950 and 1951 as the youngest and only female candidate it the UK federal election
- Elected as a Member of Parliament (UK) in 1959
- Appointed Parliamentary Undersecretary at the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance in 1961
- Appointed Secretary of State for Education and Science in 1970
- Elected as first female leader of the Conservative Party and first female Leader of the Opposition in 1975
- Elected as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 1979, served in the role until 1990
- Credited as one of the major catalysts in the fall of communism along with Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II
- UK’s GDP grew 25% under her leadership
- Named the most competent British Prime Minister of the past 30 years in an Ipsos MORI poll
Why overshadow the achievements of a courageous woman with mental health issues suffered later in life? Why not focus on her story of overcoming adversity and of her impact on the modern world?
A frail woman suffering from dementia would never have so justly earned the moniker ‘ Iron Lady‘.
This post is dedicated to the strong female leaders in the world and the enlightened men and women who recognize and respect their accomplishments and sacrifices.
- Opinion: Thatcher biopic ‘useful propaganda’ for UK Conservatives (cnn.com)
- MOVIE REVIEW Happy New Year, Maggie Thatcher? (tech.mit.edu)
- Portrait of an iron lady (rantandravereviews.wordpress.com)
- Somebody’s Got to Say It: She Was the Iron Lady…..Period! (skyenoor.wordpress.com)
- The Iron Lady by Phyllida Lloyd (hkauteur.wordpress.com)