Why are women, smart women, women who call themselves feminists even expressing their admiration for Margaret Thatcher? Oh, right, she was a strong woman who stuck to her guns. But what’s to celebrate about that? Those were hugely destructive weapons. The former British prime minister who died this week was the first female to hold that position. But she was always a thorn digging deeply into the side of those of us who believed that more women in leadership positions – whether in the boardroom or the backroom – could bring compassion, cooperation, even peace to business, politics and the world. Thatcher proved us wrong. She trashed the unions, privatized public companies and refused to bend on a single thing; she spearheaded a war over the Falkland Islands and cut milk subsidies to public schools. The woman didn’t have a nurturing bone in her body when it came to public policy. True, you don’t gain power within the UK’s rigidly class-based male establishment by being likeable and easygoing. But don’t believe for a second that the political system turned Thatcher into who she was. The grocer’s daughter came to Parliament with her right-wing ideas fully formed, and the old boys wouldn’t have given the new girl the time of day had she been a canny liberal with highly developed bridge-building skills. Women don’t become the responsive leaders we dream of without connecting to the communities that support those values. I’m tired of making excuses for reactionary female political leaders. I also see no reason to address the political gender imbalance by voting for women – until I hear what’s coming out of their mouths. @susangcole
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