Thatcher in retrospect – her legacy to feminism explored

Issue date: 28 April 2009

University of the West of England Experts in Media and Culture will explore the legacy of Margaret Thatcher at a special colloquium organised by the Gender and Culture Research Group at the University of the West of England. 'The Shadow of Thatcher: Women, Feminism, Politics and Culture 30 years on' will take place at the Arnolfini in Bristol on Friday 8 May 2009.

Speakers include Dr Heather Nunn from Roehampton University, Professor Jackie Stacey from Manchester University and Professor Beverley Skeggs of Goldsmiths College, University of London.

The colloquium will mark the 30th anniversary of Margaret Thatcher's election as Conservative Prime Minister in 1979, and will look back critically at the legacy of Thatcherism for culture, politics and feminism as well as looking forward to the ways in which that legacy is being challenged.

Colloquium organiser Estella Tincknell, Reader in Media and Cultural Studies at UWE explains, “Margaret Thatcher is remarkable in that she is the only woman to have held the office of Prime Minister in this country and yet she did nothing directly to promote the interests of women – if anything, she was very anti-feminist. Her policies stopped the move towards a more equal society that had been taking place over the previous fifty years in the UK by placing the onus of achievement onto individual success regardless of the social consequences.

“It is no coincidence that her period in office saw the rise of the yuppie and the beginnings of a national obsession with property values rather than human values. We are just beginning to question this transformation as a society in the aftermath of the global economic crash.

“But love her or loathe her she was a force to be reckoned with and her legacy resonates to this day, making for a fascinating journey into the recent past. Her time in power during the 1980s gave rise to some interesting fashions – shoulder pads, business suits and pussy bows - and influenced the assumption not only that women had to behave like men in order to succeed at work but that there was no need for feminism because women were now more successful than men.

“The period has been well chronicled and in some recent television and film retellings of the 1980s she has become increasingly mythologised as a national heroine. This colloquium will give those who are interested in her legacy a chance to explore the impact she has had on shaping the world we live in now from a cultural and political standpoint and how this has influenced women's lives today.”

Following on from the colloquium will be the opportunity to see how one of the top cartoonists of the day satirised and tracked Thatcher during the 1980's. Steve Bell, the cartoonist will present a special Evening Talk organised by the Festival of Ideas focusing on his work for the Guardian over 27 years. He will give a light hearted presentation on Margaret Thatcher from her rise to her demise featuring long forgotten cabinet ministers, red nosed newspaper editors and the Falklands War.

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For more information on UWE's Gender and Culture Research Group see the website

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