Feminism Through the Eyes of the Iron Ladies

Merriam- Webster defined feminism as “the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes”. Another definition is “organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interest”. All the three leaders namely Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher and Indira Gandhi can be considered feminist by the first definition; many historians feel that the three Prime Ministers did not do anything, during their regime to be included in the second definition.

Very surprisingly, none of the three leaders considered themselves to the feminist and explicitly stated so. Indira Gandhi wrote to a friend” I am in no sense a feminist, but I believe in women being able to do everything. Given the opportunity to develop, capable Indian women have come to the top at once”. Indira had been brought up flying kites and climbing trees with her boy cousins and did not know the difference between boys and girls till she was twelve. She had no siblings and her father, encouraged her wholeheartedly, to follow her passion and bloom into a natural leader; she, therefore, felt that such opportunity would make all women become great in their chosen path. She did not perceive the need for a women’s liberation movement as she had not experienced the disadvantage that most women faced in the newly independent India.

For a similar reason Golda Meir, the first Jewish Lady Prime Minister did not align herself with the feminist movement. To an interviewer, she spoke thus- “Do you mean those crazy women who burn their bras, go around dishevelled and hate men? They are crazy. But how can one accept such crazy women who think it is a misfortune to get pregnant, and a disaster to bring children into the world? And when it is the greatest privilege we women have over men! I got into politics at the time of First World War, I was sixteen, and had never belonged to a women’s organization. The FACT OF BEING A WOMAN HAS NEVER BEEN ANOBSTACLE”.

All the same, Meir has written several articles on the struggle that a mother faces while pursuing a career. However, through the same medium, she has opined that women should take a brave survival strategy, and not a complaining one.

Margret Thatcher, the only lady Prime Minister of England was essentially anti-feminist and has declared herself as one.

She has reprimanded feminists, particularly militant ones-

“I think they have become too strident. I think they have done great damage to the cause of women by making us out to be something we are not. Each person is different. Each has their own talents and abilities, and these are things that you want to draw and bring out. You don’t say, I must get on because I am a woman. You should say –You should get on because you have a combination of talents that are right for the job. The moment you exaggerate the question, you defeat your case.”

To cut it short, these iron ladies did not believe in feminism because they believed in Individualism. Gandhi and Meir saw their own success in an unequal world as an example; Thatcher felt that feminism was an obsolete, outworn idea.

It is mentionable that none of these three pursued feminist agendas while in office, not even in welfare measures.

Thus I would like to emphasize, through this article, that the greatest, ablest, and strongest women did not achieve by means of “softer” policies but stood up to brave the world. What we need, in this hour, is an opportunity, not reservations or patronage.

Let us rise, and stop not till each of us fulfils her dream. Yes, but first we shall have to ”dare to dream.”


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