How Margaret Thatcher Hacked My Brain And Made Me Slightly Less Sexist

Margaret Thatcher

“My nephew Luke has no memory of a white male president” says Melissa Ryan.  “Hillary Clinton just made history but for millions of children she won’t be the first woman president. She’ll just be the president.”

This is exactly right, I responded.

I was born right before Margaret Thatcher became the British Prime Minister and she remained so until I was nearly 11 years old. In my head, the word ‘Prime Minister’ was inherently gendered female and whenever, in fiction or historical context, the Prime Minister was referred to with the male pronouns he/him, it felt odd. Continue reading “How Margaret Thatcher Hacked My Brain And Made Me Slightly Less Sexist”

I assumed the word 'Prime Minister' meant a woman

Margaret Thatcher has died aged 87.

There will be many analyses of her legacy in the next few days.  My sense is that not only the inequalities, but how we deal with the inequalities, is down to the actions of her Government.

Here’s an immediate thought, not related to her policies:  I grew up assuming that the word ‘Prime Minister’ necessarily meant a woman.  Just as maleness is a ‘necessary characteristic’ of James Bond, for me, femaleness was a necessary characteristic of a Prime Minister.

There’s some dialogue near the start of Mary Poppins, where Mrs Banks (the suffragette) says that they planned to picket the Prime Minister, and refers to him. As a kid, watching that film a lot, I always found that weird.  Likewise, when John Major took over in 1991, and the news reporters called the Prime Minister ‘he’, I experienced real cognitive dissonance.

Update

According to the data published by the Guardian, the gender pay gap actually increased during Thatcher’s premiership.  However, woman’s full time pay, as a percentage of men’s, did increase.