Thatcher, Politics and Fantasy: The Political Culture of Gender and Nation

Thatcher, Politics and Fantasy: The Political Culture of Gender and Nation

Thatcher, Politics and Fantasy: The Political Culture of Gender and Nation

Thatcher, Politics and Fantasy: The Political Culture of Gender and Nation

Synopsis

The powerful image of Margaret Thatcher behind the wheel of a tank, a modern day Britannia with her headscarf trailing in the breeze, in many ways epitomises the themes of this book. Drawing on a wide range of material - speeches, press photos, campaign posters, radio interviews, magazine articles, political biographies - this well-documented and scholarly analysis shows the interplay of gender, fantasy and conflict in the construction of the Thatcher persona, and the complex ways in which her politics resonated with the fears and desires of the British electorate.

Excerpt

Fantasy, with its aggrandizing narrative appetite, appropriates and
incorporates social meaning and, structuring its public narrative,
forms the historically specific stories and subjectivities available –
that aspect of fantasy is open to political analysis and negotiation.

(Kaplan, 1986:153)

This book begins with an image, an image that, for me at least, is both evocative and disturbing. This image in many respects encapsulates what it is that I find intriguing and worthy of sustained analysis about Margaret Thatcher’s political persona. In September 1988 Thatcher visited Germany, and images of her test-driving the new British-built Challenger tank appeared in newspapers and on television. Swathed in white, with a headscarf trailing behind her in the breeze, white leather gloves upon her hands, she stood upright, seemingly guiding the bulky armoured tank across barren desert-like terrain. As the tank advanced across the scrub, her scarf flowed in the slipstream and appeared to move in concert with the union jack flag raised on her right side. She gazed forward intensely, her bearing suggesting confidence; she appeared unafraid of imagined opposition, and at home with the machinery of war that carried her.

Myths of national strength and national identity are frequently accorded emotional strength and simple clarity through the imaginary reconstruction of past wars and battles. Thatcher’s image of national leadership – surrounded by the latest technology of the battlefield – conjured up fantasies of imperial venture and heroic narratives of masculine courage and strength in the face of adversity, of defending one’s own land alongside the righteous incursion of another’s terri-

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