If you thought it was trivial to care about putting a woman on a bank note, #feministtenner will prove you wrong

The campaign faced opposition from its inception, and even more so when it succeeded

Share

I was pleasantly surprised by something that happened on Twitter today. Not something you read every day, is it? But hear me out.

Today, activist Caroline Criado-Perez, who campaigned for the Bank of England to issue a note featuring a woman, started promoting a hashtag called #feministtenner. The idea came from tweeter Lynn Schreiber, who pledged to give her first newly-issued £10 note (which will now feature Jane Austen) to the women’s charity Refuge. She did so in response to some earlier tweets from people promising to deface or burn the new note, presumably to express their disapproval of Caroline’s campaign.

The hostility was no new development – the campaign faced opposition from the most unlikely quarters from its inception. For many left activists, it was too much of a bow to capitalism: why collaborate with it by acknowledging that money is important? Some feminists thought it was just pointless: who cares about stupid banknotes when women are being raped and murdered all over the world? For others, it was a bourgeois issue, a privileged white women's crusade that re-enacted the marginalization of minority voices. Critics with other views popped up here and there, but the one accusation all of them had in common was: this campaign is frivolous, trivial. Why do it? Even if it succeeds, it will have accomplished nothing of value.

Well, the campaign did succeed, as was by no means inevitable. It’s easy to forget what an achievement that was: to my knowledge, no single campaigner has ever taken on an institution as conservative and unaccountable as the Bank of England, let alone won. When the Bank announced that Jane Austen will feature on the new £10 note, Twitter erupted – but not in jubilation; in fury. The internet seethed with the most violent, persistent, ugly and explicit set of attacks on a single woman that were seen since media critic Anita Sarkeesian was subject to a similar barrage for wanting to make a program critiquing the representation of women in computer games (another 'frivolous' topic).

So when something many dismissed as pointless and marginal attracts a volcanic eruption of anger, what does it mean? It means it mattered to people. Maybe not to you, but it mattered to those targeted by the campaign – sexist men, sexist power structures, sexist institutions. Computer games, banknotes, Page 3, and other issues that some think of as trivial, turn out to be very important to a lot of sexist men. Men who are prepared to break the law by stalking, harassing and threatening women, even at the risk of police action being taken against them.

Today we saw how one such success can be leveraged by people bent on action and not on carping. The #feministtenner hashtag attracted hundreds of tweets within its first couple of hours. People fell over themselves to pledge their first Jane Austen note to a slew of feminist charities. Even better, the charities themselves jumped in to remind people that donations are needed now, today – and donations duly started being pledged. So this trivial, frivolous, nonsensical campaign may yet prove to have stuck a bit of a plaster on the wounds inflicted on women by a systematic policy attack on their incomes, livelihoods, services and safety.

Well fancy that.

If you would like to pledge your first feminist £10 to a women’s charity, or to learn more about the causes, here are some ideas:

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour's Jeremy Corbyn arrives to take part in a Labour party leadership final debate, at the Sage in Gateshead, England, Thursday, Sept. 3  

Jeremy Corbyn is here to stay and the Labour Party is never going to look the same again

Andrew Grice
Serena Williams  

As Stella Creasy and Serena Williams know, a woman's achievements are still judged on appearance

Holly Baxter
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones