I’ve long thought of myself as a feminist, so I’m aware of Caroline Criado-Perez’s work. I know about The Women’s Room and her fight for better representation of women in the media, and we all know about her battle with the Bank of England.
I thought CC-P had won that one. When it was announced that Jane Austen was to be the new face on the back of the ten pound note from 2017, I thought that was another battle won for feminism, and considering the size and power of an organisation like the Bank of England, I was also rather impressed.
It shouldn’t be that way, though, should it? Especially not with the law as it stands.
You might not know it, but, apparently, the Equality Act 2010 commits public institutions to end discrimination. The Bank of England is a public institution, but it conducted its decision making process, with regard to the historic figures who would appear on the backs of the newly designed bank notes, behind closed doors. All of the people chosen were men, suggesting that discrimination might not have been given due consideration.
There was clearly a case to answer, and Caroline Criado-Perez was one of the women who put that case.
This is the twenty-first century, for crying out loud. It’s hard to believe that all the people sitting in the offices of the Bank of England making those design decisions were men, and it’s even harder to believe that no one thought to put forward the names of any women. Personally, I find it hard to believe that of the four bank notes in circulation only one of them is to have the likeness of a woman on its reverse.
That is as nothing compared to what happened next, however.
What happened next is that Caroline Criado-Perez was attacked on Twitter for daring to have a feminist opinion on the subject, and, more particularly for daring to voice it.
The whole debacle with the Bank of England was put to rest on July 24th when Jane Austen was announced as the new face of the tenner. It is now September 6th and CC-P is still being persecuted on Twitter.
And when I say persecuted, Caroline Criado-Perez has received some of the nastiest threats it is possible to squeeze into 140 characters. She has been threatened with death and gang-rape, and with death by gang-rape. Men actually seem to believe that it is acceptable to threaten a woman with some of the most appalling acts of sexual violence simply because she has an opinion and feels empowered to voice it.
Surely we must all feel empowered to voice our opinions without fearing we will be under threat of anything from anyone. Caroline Criado-Perez was suggesting that the image of a woman appear on the reverse of a bank note. A likeness of Elizabeth Fry is currently on the reverse of the fiver, so all she was asking was for the status quo to be maintained.
Men want to RAPE her for that! Really?
Caroline Criado-Perez did what we must all do, and she fought back. She took her complaint to Twitter and to the police. It shouldn’t be difficult, should it? Everyone who signs up for Twitter fills in a form, including an e-mail address, and everyone leaves a trail with computer and server addresses and whatnot (and I’m not going to pretend I understand all that stuff, but I do know that it’s not all that difficult to trace people this way). Everyone has a Twitter handle, and the people making these horrendous threats don’t strike me as terribly clever.
Some of the advice Caroline Criado-Perez was given was to close her Twitter account, to lay low, not to bait the trolls, not to say anything too controversial.
This woman should shut up? Really? This woman with her perfectly valid opinions, with her good sense, with her instincts for fair play and natural justice, with her feminist politics, her education and her professional credentials should quiet down, should not fuss, should shut up?
This woman should be shouted down by unbelievably nasty threats made by the most moronic, violent, abusive men. Really?
Think about the voices you want to listen to in society. Think about what you’re saying. Think about the messages we’re sending to our daughters.
Shouting Back is about right!
It’s long past time we made some big changes to our society. We shouldn’t be telling women like Caroline Criado-Perez to be quiet... We shouldn’t be telling any woman to keep her mouth shut, just as we shouldn’t be telling her what not to wear or where not to walk, or when not to go out.
We should be educating men. We should be teaching them that women represent their best selves, their greatest allies in the World and half of humanity. We are one society and it’s time we respected one another.
For women to respect men is tough when a percentage of them continue to treat us with such hostility and contempt. They do not despise us for what we say, but only because we exist at all.
We can’t shut up and we won’t shut up. Now is the time to speak out louder, and for those men who believe as we do to speak out too. It’s time for more men and women to be feminists, because if this sort of shit can still happen then the battle for equality is very far from won.