The "Iron Lady" and the Cowboy: Gendered Symbols and Cold War Politics


Lauren Mee

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My project this summer focused on how both Thatcher and Reagan employed gender hierarchies in their Cold War personas and rhetoric in order to frame their nations? roles in the Cold War conflict in simple, dichotomized language. Both countries referenced widely understood gender roles as shorthand for traits such as a country?s power on the world stage, level of militarization and willingness to protect ?national interests? through the use of force. Although the Reagan-Thatcher partnership marked a high point in the ?Special Relationship,? the bond that celebrated the similar heritage and democratic values of the countries, conflicts occurred when both nations sought to apply masculinized rhetoric. By appealing to the gender binary, particularly to denote their countries? positions of power, Thatcher and Reagan rejected the notions of their national decline symbolized, respectively, by the Suez and Vietnam ?syndromes.? Pushing for a militarized state as a response to post-WWII national security demands, the neo-Conservative administrations feminized and thus marginalized pacifist and diplomatic rhetoric by framing these as shows of national weakness to be overcome. Oftentimes, the governments used rhetoric intended for ?enemy? ears to indicate to national audiences an ?ideal? based on references to gendered traits. However, the ways in which British and American foreign policies clashed indicates the tensions inherent in a ?Special Relationship? which necessitated feminized restraint and cooperation while simultaneously prizing masculine independence and aggression.


David Axeen




The Paul K. and Evalyn E. Cook Richter Trusts - Summer Fellowship

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