Wednesday felt like a brilliant day for women and a brilliant day for people power. After a three-month campaign, that began after I saw a news story about historical women being wiped off banknotes, the Bank of England finally capitulated. Mark Carney announced that not only would Jane Austen be the face of the new tenner, but that a review process would be instituted to ensure that banknotes reflected the diversity of society.
I was overwhelmed. We had taken on a huge institution, a bastion of white male power and privilege, and we had won. I looked forward to future banknotes featuring Mary Seacole and Rosalind Franklin. I looked forward to these notes very publicly: on TV; on radio; and in the papers.
And it seems some people didn’t like that. Among the streams of positive and supportive responses, this one cropped up: “this Perez one just needs a good smashing up the arse and she’ll be fine”. And that was just the beginning. Soon, I was overwhelmed in a very different way.
“Everyone jump on the rape train > @CCriadoPerez is conductor”; “Ain’t no brakes where we’re going”; “Wouldn’t mind tying this bitch to my stove. Hey sweetheart, give me a shout when you’re ready to be put in your place”; “So looking forward to titty fucking you later tonight”, wrote a variety of Twitter users.
These are all tweets from men. Men who don’t like women speaking up. Men who don’t like women appearing in public.
I was told by numerous people just to ignore them. After all, we don’t feed the trolls, do we? But we had just taken on the Bank of England and won. I wasn’t going to be silenced by these men. I wasn’t going to give them what they wanted. So I started shouting back. And as I did, amid the tidal wave of abuse, a small stream - which gradually turned into a river, and then a flood of supportive tweets - started to appear.
These supportive tweets have now taken over. I can’t begin to keep up with them. Someone has set up a petition asking Twitter to put a “report abuse” button on every tweet; it has gained over 11,000 signatures in less than a day. And people are speaking out; more than this, the trolls themselves are now locking their own accounts.
What does this say? It says that we don’t have to put up with this. Trolls don’t run the internet; neither do abusive men who issue rape threats to get women to shut up. We are the majority. And if we stand firm, and shout back as one, we will win. I hope you’ll join me in shouting back.