Viewpoint: Margaret Thatcher’s legacy


Karen Ross is a Professor in the University of Liverpool’s Department of Communication and Media

“Margaret Thatcher was revered and reviled in almost equal measure by the news media and her coiffure and couture (and especially her handbag) attracted almost as much comment as her political decisions.

“Whilst it was inevitable that the novelty value of being Britain’s first woman Prime Minister would mean that her sex would be a focus of media attention, the persistent use of the honorific ‘Mrs’ and her soubriquet of ‘The Iron Lady’ were contradictory assertions of power – chattel vs. battle – but also resolutely gendered.

“Whilst she would sometimes acknowledge her sex in her own statements, as in the oft-quoted, ‘the Lady’s not for turning’, and she may have enjoyed seeing ‘handbagging’ enter the Oxford English Dictionary, most women parliamentarians lament the media’s preoccupation with the minutiae of their domestic arrangements, or the name of their stylist, or being described as Blair’s Babes, Cameron’s Cuties or Gordan’s Gals.

“But whatever we thought about Margaret Thatcher’s politics, she blazed an important trail for women’s political aspirations and the media’s trivializing tendencies towards women were harder to maintain while she was in power.”


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