Significant Women

January can be a slow month characterised by a post festive slump. Nothing much happens and you get the bills for December. And invariably you find yourself in a less than advantageous position wondering at which point you checked in your sanity for an expensive Spa break! Whilst common sense was resting you were busy spending; spreading the love with ill chosen gifts for close friends and random acquaintances. With the wisdom of age profligacy is both a word I can spell and something I am less prone too thankfully.

2012 is starting promisingly with encounters with three significant women this month. Film wise the Lady is released at the same time as the Iron Lady; two personal biopics of women who have in their different ways left an imprint on the world. I understand that neither subject has seen the portrayal of their lives.

The Lady – invigorating and personal biopic..traces the oppressively cruel military rule..and the defiant sacrifices made by her Oxford professor husband and sons..Despite an overwhelming majority win, she is placed under house arrest for 15 years and we witness the dignity with which she copes with a life of solitude away from those who love her.’

The Iron Lady –‘ Her politics aside she was a ground-breaker who smashed through the barriers of gender and class to be heard in a male-dominated world. This insightful portrait of an extraordinary and complex woman, negotiating the politics of power and paying the price for it’.

Reading the descriptions above taken from the Chapter brochure I was struck by the resonance between the two women and curious as to why I warm to one and not the other. The graceful fragility of the elegant Burmese leader who often resembles an angelic figure who could be scooped up by an unexpected gust of wind. And if she did she would simply calmly wait to be deposited somewhere nearby where she would pause before rising, brushing off the dust and gliding on her preordained journey. Her infinite capacity for patience is hardly surprising but incredibly humbling. Aung San Suu Kyi’s ethereal appearance belies a steely determination.

The Iron Lady focuses on a particular time in British politics; the 17 days leading up to the Falklands war in 1982, but the central character played by Meryl Streep portrays a woman with Alzheimer’s. A frail harmless woman about as different to the ball breaking hang bag wielding combatant who took on Arthur Scargill and the miner’s strike as one could imagine. Jim Broadbent who plays long suffering husband Denis, is for me forever frozen in the stage show Anyone for Denis I saw as a young person.

David Cameron, amongst others, expressed regret that the Iron Lady was released now whilst Mrs Thatcher is still alive but then it comes on the back of recent discussion of whether the Baroness should have a State Funeral. The latter presumably is respectful planning; nevertheless a tad insensitive perhaps.

On the other side the Burmese leader is about to stand for election; she is at the beginning of a new stage in her political career. Her humanity makes her all the stronger in terms of leadership material for me; it is so much more than ‘a soft side’ in reality it is quite the opposite. I have high hopes for the woman who was photographed alongside William Hague this week; talk about making someone look small and on this occasion it was not the shorter person.

I shall see both films before drawing my own conclusions. In the contemporary debate about feminism these two women stand aside as I can’t imagine either of them would call themselves feminist. In fact I recall Mrs Thatcher saying the women’s liberation movement had done nothing for her. And against the backdrop of Burmese politics the question would I imagine be bemusing academic. This is part of a much wider more complex discussion which we are fortunate to be in a position to engage with; in the countries (Burma, Liberia etc), female Nobel Peace Prize winners live it is quite a different story.

 I want to say I BIG thank you to Angela Elniff-Larsen for drawing my attention to An Audience with Germaine Greer at the Gate in Cardiff on 29 January. I am currently reading How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran said to be a contemporary re-writing of the Female Eunuch so I was excited to find out Greer was coming to Wales. So excited I’ve enticed 8 other women to join me; people rather more familiar with her writing than me which will doubtless intimidating me to the extent I won’t ask a question! See the I AM WOMAN facebook group for details of this event and related articles.

 I promise to take notes and give an insightful review of both Germaine Greer and Caitlin Moran.



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Filed under Musings of a Contemporary Spinster

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