**It is important to note The Crown is loosely based on historical events but is ultimately a work of fiction**
Since starting Season four of Netflix’s The Crown, Stevie Nicks’s “Edge of Seventeen” has been playing on repeat on my Spotify. Like many others, I have been racing through the new season over the last few days, hopping on my phone after nearly every scene to Google, “Did this actually happen? Was this actually true?”. Season four of the series focuses on several key events that occurred in the British Royal Family from the 1970s into the 1990s; most notably, the arrival of Diana Spencer (Princess Diana) and Margaret Thatcher’s election as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Even with this refreshing focus on womxn characters, I found myself continuously conflicted as I moved through the season, especially regarding Margaret Thatcher.
I’d heard of Margaret Thatcher before, but I’d never looked too closely into what she was like as a politician or a person; I was just happy with the knowledge that a womxn had occupied one of the highest positions of power in the United Kingdom. But after further searching, I’ve found that I don’t really like much at all.
Thatcher grew up admiring her father, a businessman, and went to Oxford University to study chemistry. She became the leader of the Conservative Party in 1975 - where conservative means the same thing in the UK as it does in the US - and eventually Prime Minister in 1979. During her terms as Prime Minister, Thatcher implemented pro-corporate policies that would ultimately serve to widen the gap between the rich and the poor (sound familiar?) to in an attempt to control Britain’s inflation. She became very unpopular among the low and middle class, which The Crown addresses in one of their episodes by following a man who had lost his job during Thatcher’s administration (S4, E5).
In one scene from the show, Thatcher’s advisors come to her house for a meeting. Thatcher recruits her daughter upon arriving home to help her prepare dinner for the “guests.” It was off-putting to see Thatcher preparing dinner for her advisors and serving them in her pantsuit and an apron; she appeared, in that moment, more concerned with being a host than the Prime Minister, almost as if her husband was the one the advisors had come to see. If the roles were reversed, and the Prime Minister was a man, there would be no way his advisors would let him cater to their needs; he would be considered “distracted” and not focused on the matter at hand.
Now, this is where I start to get uncomfortable. As a feminist, shouldn’t I not care about what Margaret Thatcher does, as long as she’s happy and doing what she wants? Isn’t that the whole point of feminism, that women get to choose their path in life without interference from men or societal pressures? I asked myself these questions as I watched Margaret Thatcher throughout the season, wondering if I was confusing feminism and my liberal beliefs, where I can only support a womxn in power if she follows my agenda. Thatcher was a conservative and implemented many conservative policies I don’t necessarily believe in, so is that where my dislike comes from? Or does it come from the fact that as a womxn, I expect her to lean more towards the left, and when she doesn’t, I feel betrayed?
It’s all very confusing, and I haven’t been able to come up with answers to my questions. Obviously nothing exists strictly in black and white, and there is a lot of gray area to muddle through when looking at womxn in power in a patriarchal society.