Thursday, 1 August 2013

Bank notes

Hello. My name is Kostas Economides and I am a lecturer in the Department of Economics at the University of the South of England (USE for short). Well, actually that is not true really as the names of individuals and institutions in this blog have been changed to protect the innocent - and the guilty!

Another topic that has been the subject of cafe discussions is the decision by Mark Carney, the new Governor of the Bank of England, to replace Charles Darwin by Jane Austen on the £10 bank notes.

Of course this has largely been due to pressure brought about by the petition organised by Caroline Criado-Perez who subsequently became the victim of a Twitter based rape hate campaign by some sick and obnoxious men. There was much discussion in the cafe as to what can be done to stop these unpleasant uses of the social media. Should Twitter be doing more? Should the perpetrators be ignored, blocked, prosecuted or fought with humour and disdain? The consensus was that, except in extreme cases where actual bodily harm was threatened and the police should be involved, mockery was the best approach. But it must be hard for Caroline Criado-Perez, and the Labour MP Stella Creasy who has also been the target of these offensive individuals, to deal with the threats made to them.

To return to the matter of the bank notes some people wondered why the number of people appearing on bank notes could not just be increased. Why could we not add one more person to the set of people displayed on £5, £10 and £50 notes with at least one of those extra people being a woman? Well, of course, costs would rise. Designing and printing a wide variety of notes that are not easy to forge is a costly business. Richard wondered what the situation is for bank notes in other countries. Who appears on euros, Canadian dollars or Australian dollars for example? I made it a project to find out.

It turns out that the euro notes all feature places and maps rather than people. The Canadian notes have people on the front but only one is a woman - Queen Elisabeth II.

Australia does rather better. Notes have people on both the front and the back and in every case one of the images is of a woman. Of course Australia is not free of misogynistic tendencies as former Prime Minister Julia Gillard recently discovered.

I think what Caroline Criado-Perez was also getting at was the question of who should be making decisions of this sort. All too often it seemed to be a group of middle-aged white middle-class males to whom the question of fair female representation just did not occur.

So which women would you want to add to our bank notes if we could have more of them? I would have to vote for Ada Lovelace - but then I am a bit of a nerd!

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