Wednesday, 11 January 2012

The Iron Lady

For years Margaret Thatcher has been held up as a model of a certain kind of woman leader.

One which most women don't want to emulate. She has singlehandedly given rise to a stereotype of woman leader: the 'Iron Maiden' - see Stead and Elliott, 2009.

Yet the film released last week seems to have confounded her critics.

Meryl Streep is an astonishing Thatcher, convincing in both hairstyle and voice. What sounded like a bizarre way of structuring a film, around a person's mental decline, has turned out to make sense.

Like many other women I have long pondered whether Mrs Thatcher did women many favours when she became Prime Minister. She seemed so unlike most women. Yet this film has made me rethink. It reminds us she did not have much choice in that era but to behave like a man. And perhaps behind the persona there was more of a real person than most of us realised.

There is a good review of the film on the Sophia Network website, and resources available from Damaris. It will be interesting to see what discussion it generates about women leaders.

The Iron Maiden stereotype seems to reinforce the idea that 'real' women can't be leaders. Femininity is inherently not suited to leadership.

But a human 'Iron Lady' might force us to think differently.