Saturday, 24 December 2011

Thatcher (aargh) and a different physicality

This blog entry isn’t about physical landscapes, but about people and how they – we – create meanings and value or devalue the meanings of others, and so on political and economic landscapes. It is stimulated particularly by a petition about the prospective funeral of Margaret Thatcher, and some of the things people are writing about it.

First, the petition is about whether Thatcher, when she dies, should have a ‘state funeral’. No, the petition says. (I have signed it.) I don’t see any reason for a state funeral, and think that the petition’s wording (which please read – the link is below) is wonderfully ironic. Yes, please let the private sector – the key ‘stakeholders’ I mean, not the wage-strapped, fleeced workers – fund a funeral for one who foregrounded and supported private over public and laid the basis for not only today’s deconstruction of the public sector but the artificial animosity between workers in the two sectors that we see now.

But – and it’s a big ‘but’ – the reporting and the blogs on this issue are (those I’ve seen) both 'tasteless', whatever that means, and much more divisive than they need be. Thatcher herself was of course highly divisive, as has been her legacy, and in my view a state (taxpayer funded) funeral is not at all appropriate. What I object to is the language in which some articles supporting the petition are couched.

[Now, I don’t know whether blogspot objects to ‘offensive’ language, or whether it takes the sensible view that writing about what people are saying needs to actually quote them, or that some terms deemed offensive are simply physical descriptions. You may guess what is coming.]

Is she an ‘old cow’? Is ‘horrible old cunt’ a reasonable descriptor? Are these merely the resorts of somebody who wants to sound off about her, and thinks that using these terms will engage an audience?

In my view, Thatcher was terribly wrong and her legacy has informed every parliament and government since her time, and will, alas, continue to do so on both political and economic counts. So, please say that. But please do not use terms that encompass all women in your depictions of one. I remember a long time ago, at an Edinburgh party, meeting a man who seemingly could only refer to women as ‘you cunt’. After he’d called me this a few times, I said ‘I’m not a cunt, I have one.’ A friend there was a bit shocked, not expecting this of me. The bloke shut up!

‘Old cow’ is an epithet used of many women, particularly those of us that are (apparently) past the age of sexual attraction. Therefore, it says nothing at all – except that it is something that rebounds on older women. Why is it used in attempts to critique Thatcher’s policies, or Thatcher's legacy?  I have only seen it used by men! Can you not simply say that Thatcher – and her economics and politics – was wrong and has remained so for the successive political generations? Or is the thought of a woman in government still so threatening that you have to lump all with one?

The petition is at

Critique and discuss Thatcher, please - but in the same terms that you would use of Wilson, Callaghan, Heath or others.