Gender Equality is for Men & Women? How Novel!

I have been rebuked several times recently by men who say that feminism and feminists want to ‘do down’ men, that we malign and denigrate men. Anyone who speaks out about their views can expect to have them challenged; that’s fine. Here’s my reply.

5 pound noteAt the risk of repeating myself, I do not wish to see a world where women perpetuate the patriarchy we currently exist under, where women are the dominant gender as men are now. I want true gender equality where what men and women bring is valued equally.

Which means that in my gender equal world it would be totally unthinkable for the Bank of England to consider scrapping the only woman currently celebrated on an English bank note to replace her with a man, Winston Churchill. I don’t disagree that Churchill made a great contribution to British society, although just for the record, he did oppose votes for women so there is a kind of irony here. (Many people have pointed out that the Queen is there which is not the same thing at all. She is on banknotes through an accident of birth and one day soon will be replaced by her son.)

I am offering my whole hearted support to The Women’s Room UK which is mounting a serious legal challenge to the bank and needs funds to do so. One women, Caroline Criado-Perez, with her many allies, is legally challenging the bank. Can you believe that in 2013 we actually have a national institution that thinks it is perfectly OK to remove any evidence that women have offered anything to society from its national currency? I am truly amazed at having to type those words. Every individual with a feeling for fairness and equality of whatever gender, should be offering her their support. Here’s what is on their website:

As a reminder of their duty under the Equality Act, here is the relevant subsection 149(1):
“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.”

The Bank of England claims that they have given due regard to these needs. However, they also claim, somewhat counter-intuitively, that the choice of personages on banknotes is not an equality matter. In a demonstration that they do not understand the Equality Act, they also accuse us of not having shown that this decision is discriminatory; we do not need to do this – the onus is on them to produce evidence that they have paid due regard to the Act’s stipulations. We are having to take their word that they have done this, as they are refusing to provide any of the correspondence related to the decision, despite our requests for this documentation. Indeed, in a show of disdain for the importance of this challenge, they call it a ‘fishing expedition’. This wording leads us to suspect they have something to hide.

So in brief, the Bank of England thinks this doesn’t matter, they claim to have considered equality anyway, but they also refuse to provide any evidence of having done so.

Leading counsel who specialises in equality law has advised that the Bank of England has got the law wrong. Following this advice, we have decided to pursue this matter in the courts. But to do that we need your help! The Bank has all the money in the world to spend on defending their antipathy to equality, but unfortunately I and The Women’s Room don’t. However, we are over 27000 strong! If we all give £10 that’s £270,000 for equality! Even £1 each would be plenty to get the case off the ground. If you can give any amount to help us see justice done, please donate and if you can’t (or even if you can but want to help more!) please share this donation page with as many people as possible.

If we do not raise enough money to go ahead, or if we raise more money than we need, all donations will be divided between the Fawcett Society, Rape Crisis and Women’s Aid, unless you indicate that you would prefer your donation to be returned to you when you donate. If you do ask for this, we will be in touch to return your donation should we not use it in pursuing this legal challenge.

Some people think this is an irrelevance; it’s not. I’ve written before about how important it is to sweat the small stuff. This sends out a very powerful message about the relative status of the genders in our society and it’s right that we challenge it. If you’d like to help, please visit here and sign the petition, and if you can, donate a few pence. Let’s show the Bank that we mean business!

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Posted on June 16th, 2013 by

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