A Pox on the Patriarchy
UPDATE: See this very relevant tweet from @matt_sperling:
Yesterday, the Bank of England unveiled its latest banknote. It’s a crisp shiny new fiver. And we’re all very excited about it, because it will contain a representation of the man we like to call our ‘great wartime leader’, Winston Churchill. Ubiquitous in loos everywhere, where his collected witticisms have been bound up for the entertainment of the constipated visitor, Churchill will now become even more of a lingua franca in England. He will become part of the bankground noise [yeah I
went there], part of the currency of everyday life you might say.
But oh dear, here come those nasty feminists to spoil everyone’s fun again. You see, Churchill isn’t appearing on just any fiver, he’s appearing on the Fry fiver. And the Fry fiver is important to women because, well, she’s a woman. Not just any woman either. The only woman. The lonely woman. Soon to be the forgotten woman. Because when Winston joins the ranks of our bank-note luminaries, Fry will go, and there will be no women left.
In “How to Be a Woman”, Caitlin Moran said that through history women have been a bit rubbish and haven’t really achieved much. (I paraphrase). This is untrue, but it is hardly surprising that one of the UK’s most prominent feminists believes it to be true, considering the tiny role women are allowed to play in our daily culture. This may seem like a small thing, but most acts of sexism are small – it’s the collective weight that makes the difference, and this is why we have to stand up against what may seem irrelevant.
So over at The Women’s Room, we are taking a stand and have started a petition about it. Below is the petition text, and here is the petition itself. Please sign it, pass it on, and stop the Bank of England contributing to the establishment sense that women have contributed nothing to history.
An all-male line-up on our bank-notes sends out the damaging message that no woman has done anything important enough to appear. This is patently untrue. Not only have numerous women emerged as leading figures in their fields, they have done so against the historic odds stacked against them which denied women a public voice and relegated them to the private sphere – making their emergence into public life all the more impressive and worthy of celebration. People will perhaps say that the Queen appears on all the notes. But the Queen would be there whatever she achieved – she was born into her position. The men on the banknotes – Charles Darwin, Adam Smith, Matthew Boulton, James Watt, and soon, Winston Churchill – are all there because of what they have done, not because of who their parents were.
This decision by the Bank of England is yet another example of women’s considerable achievements being overlooked in favour of the usual (male) suspects – and yet another example of how the establishment undervalues the contributions of women to history – and indeed to the present.
It matters because young women growing up see a parliament that is 57th equal in the world when it comes to female representation; a media where only 1 in 5 experts is a woman; and a business world where female directors represent only 16.7% of the total.
Currency, as its name suggests, is fundamental to our daily lives. These notes will change hands every hour, every minute, every second. And every time they do, the message will drive a little deeper home: women do not belong in public life – they never have, and they never will.
We call on the Bank of England to reverse this decision, and not add another straw to the establishment weight on the shoulders of young women telling them that they will amount to nothing – after all, their mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers didn’t. Why should they be any different?