A Pox on the Patriarchy
Back in 2013, the Bank of England announced that they were removing the only female historical figure from our banknotes and replacing her with Winston Churchill. As then chief cashier Chris Salmon himself noted, “The Bank is uniquely privileged to be able to use its banknotes to promote awareness and understanding of the contribution of key figures from our past to our cultural, artistic and scientific legacy.” What did it say about the Bank’s view of our history then, that all of the people selected for this honour just happened to be white men?
Three months later, via a threatened judicial review, and some mansplaining from then Governor Mervyn King about how the Queen was on the banknotes so this was all a load of nonsense, the Bank finally accepted its duties under the Public Sector Equality Duty, and announced that the next ten pound note would feature Jane Austen.
They also, and, frankly, this was the more important part for me, committed to reviewing their selection procedure, accepting that their previous “objective” selection criteria were in fact far from objective and geared towards producing ever more parades of white men on our currency.
There was, as most of you will know, a pretty unpleasant coda for me from this victory, that being an onslaught of death and rape threats directed at me on twitter, complete with the publication of addresses and other contact details. Whenever I get another influx of aggressive men in my mentions and feel the fear rising, I realise I’m still not over this. Maybe I never will be, fully.
But today, I don’t want to dwell on that. Nor do I want to dwell on the fact that the note is not perfect (the quotation choice, for example, leaves much to be desired). Today I want to celebrate the fact that we fought, and we won. That for all the hatred and bile and fear of women taking up public space, we have achieved this small victory.
Let the fight continue.
PS: make the victory even more sweet by committing to donate your first £10 to your local rape crisis shelter, who are under extreme pressure from government cuts.