Let’s call it the Thatcher Problem. Women with power make a lot of people very uncomfortable, because power is essentially anti-feminine. The echo of John Knox’s warning against a “monstrous regiment” of unsubjugated women has never really gone away. A woman in power has to prove she’s womanly enough to be acceptable, but not so womanish that she can’t do the job. And up pops the answer: Margaret Thatcher with headscarf neatly tied, head poking out of a tank: impressively martial, but always ladylike.
It’s easier – a bit – for women in politics now. You no longer have to burnish your gender credentials by showing off your ironing board. You can leave your handbag at home. Trousers are tolerable. Women now make up 29% of all MPs in Westminster, in what is shamefully an all-time high. Shameful, because there are still more male MPs currently sitting than there have been female MPs in the whole history of parliament.