Saturday, June 15, 2013

Bank of England Legal Challenge: where are the women?

Here's something I rather care about, and want to tell you.
The Bank of England has just decided to remove the only woman of historical importance depicted on their banknotes - Elisabeth Fry - and replace her with Winston Churchill. Yes, there is also the Queen on every note, but she is there for a different reason to everyone on the other side of the notes: by right of birth. This is sending out a very bad signal: that there are no women historically important enough to be featured in this gallery celebrating cultural heritage.

When challenged on this, the bank replied that they are acting fairly: Churchill was picked from a group of four candidates, and one of them was a woman. She just didn't make the cut.
I'm not against Churchill - I'm appalled that we even got to a point where there was only one woman left. You have to make an active effort to avoid such a thing in a country that has a long history of a majority of important men in charge - but not a huge effort, really not. There really are enough very important female historical figures available to keep the banknotes balanced.

Admirably, The Women's Room has taken it on themselves to challenge this decision under the Equality act, which states that
“A public authority must, in the exercise of its functions, have due regard to the need to –(a) eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited under this Act;(b) advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it;(c) foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it.”
Half of the legal funds are raised. If you agree that this is an important matter, consider heading over to their funding page and helping out.

I am really disappointed with this whole matter - I spend a lot of time thinking about what message my books are sending, analysing other media and thinking what impression of the world children are getting from it all. What are girls supposed to think of this? Are they supposed to have ambitions to be the monarch one day, because the only way to be declared historically important as a woman is to be born into the royal family? Really?
Not cool.

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