What a big win for feminism and equality yesterday! About three months ago the Bank of England announced that Elizabeth Fry would be replaced by Winston Churchill on £5 notes in 2016, leaving no women at all on English bank notes. Following a general outcry over this, 35,000 petition signatures, and a very well run campaign by Caroline Criado-Perez of The Women’s Room, yesterday the Bank announced that Jane Austen would be replacing Darwin on £10 notes from 2017.
More importantly, they will also be reviewing “the process by which they choose historical figures for [their] banknotes, with a commitment to ensuring the diversity of society is represented”, according to the petition’s email to supporters yesterday, which also adds that Bank of England officials stated (whether privately or publicly I’m not sure) that their decision was a direct result of the campaign. What a great precedent to set for other institutions, on equality and a response to being challenged.
A huge cheer for the Keep a Woman on English Banknotes campaign and all its supporters!
Over at No More Page 3, the campaign carries on steadily, with over 109,700 petition signatures, and several ‘tweet-a-thons’ and public demonstrations under their belt, not to mention some lovely T-shirts.
The Sun got itself a new editor last month, who didn’t quite make the radical change we hoped he would on his first day, although he was at least honest enough to say that keeping Page 3 is purely a business decision. And yet there are teasers of the effect the campaign is having on head honchos, with Rupert Murdoch’s tweet about a halfway house with ‘glamorous fashionistas’, and David Dinsmore, the new Sun editor, allegedly asking colleagues to come up with new ideas to make Page 3 more 21st Century. Meanwhile, the Everyday Sexism Project continues, calling out sexism everywhere, every day, with well over 25,000 entries in the original site, 16 sister sites set up worldwide, and far more women than ever feeling that little bit less alone.
And finally, here’s another bit of excitement that’s been going on: Walk for Women. 100 years ago 50,000 amazing women walked to London from all over Britain, to demonstrate for their rights – for what became our rights. This at a time of “period costume”, before a Starbucks on every corner, or hatfans and evaporative cooling vests (for real!). So this summer, Walk for Women have organised a walk from Brighton to London, and everyone’s invited to take part in that and other walks all over Britain, to celebrate our suffragette sisters’ efforts. You can find or organise a walk near you, and I’ll be at Aberdeen’s walk on the 3rd of August.
Trying to explain why feminism is still important today can be really exhausting, and in the course of following the feminist movement I find myself getting angry and upset quite often. But yesterday’s announcement shows that real change can come out of what seem like endless campaigns, Facebook shares, tweets…they do get noticed, and they’re definitely something to be proud of.
After yesterday’s banknotes victory, a simple Facebook post by Huffington Post remembering Amelia Earhart, OK magazine apologising after all the complaints about its ridiculous front cover, and today’s Google doodle celebrating Rosalind Franklin, it does look like society really is changing, slowly but surely, as women refuse to remain quiet and go away. These are the things to remember when it seems like an uphill struggle going nowhere.
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, once wrote something about why women’s clothes are so elaborate: because we have no other way to express ourselves. Well, the Internet may be a big bad place for some, but it is a big good place for others; our thoughts are no longer hidden in diaries but shouted out for the world to hear. And as Zoe Williams put it, this generation’s feminists are “more determined, its weapons are more lethal; it is Buffy to yesteryear’s Mary Poppins.” I like that indeed.