Anorak News | The Bank of England keeping token women on banknotes is no victory

The Bank of England keeping token women on banknotes is no victory

by | 26th, July 2013

LIKE many people, I’m delighted with the news that the Bank of England will be keeping women on our banknotes. I made this cartoon in support of the campaign.


There’s a few things about the reaction to the news which have struck me, so I thought I’d jot my notes down.

This isn’t a victory?

I’ve seen it said that this isn’t actually a victory, and that the Bank of England had clearly had the Jane Austen design in the bag, and all they’ve done is played a PR blinder in the face of the campaign.

I disagree.

Regardless of how far along the Bank were with the Austen design already, I think what has been achieved is that it will never be tenable again for the Bank to propose an all-male line-up. And with that principle—that there will always be at least one woman on our range of notes—we can start to chip away at the next objectives, the representation of leading figures from other marginalised groups on our notes.

The “Minimum Viable Campaign”

There have been complaints that this wasn’t the most important victory to win anyway, that there are more pressing issues to campaign about. In my work I’m often focussed on being “lean”, trying to get something out and working with the least amount of wasted effort. It strikes me that the bank notes campaign was an example of the “minimum viable campaign”. Taking one small example that is symbolic of a wider struggle, and working very hard to get people to think about and change that one thing.

Great. But Jane Austen is the wrong choice.

I’ve seen people griping that Austen is an uninspired and conservative choice. The Guardian has a piece featuring a list of more radical alternatives. I think it is great that the debate is being had, and that it is getting more words written and said about some of the great women in British history. The more we debate who should be on our notes, the more role models we are providing for our daughters.

What is wrong with you insecure men?

It is quite something to behold some men on the internet simultaneously arguing that this is a trivial issue that women shouldn’t be fussing themselves over, whilst also suggesting that the women behind the campaign need “smashing up the arse.”

What. The. Actual. F***. Internet?

Pro tip: There is something wrong with you if you are that intimidated by the idea that there might be a picture of a famous woman on your currency rather than a famous man.

My motivation?

I got accused in the comments on this blog a couple of weeks ago of writing about sexism as a way to “friend my way into vaginas”. Such a lovely turn of phrase.

My motivations are quite simple.

  1. I believe in equality of opportunity.
  2. I do not like the idea of my daughter turning round to me one day and saying, “Hey dad! The media and tech industries seem to be rather sexist. What did you ever do to try and change that when you had the chance?” and me not having an answer.

Martin Belam

Posted: 26th, July 2013 | In: Money, Reviews Comment | TrackBack | Permalink