The new passport design isn’t sexist, it’s historically accurate
Surprise, surprise, the new British passport has been met with an onslaught of online feminist criticism. The problem? The new design, which celebrates British landmarks and influential figures from the past 500 years, featured more men than women. In the same vein of criticism as that which was hurled at the British banknote a few years ago, rent-a-gob feminists are demanding that the new passport have more pictures of women in it.
First in line with a cutting tweet was Labour MP Stella Creasy, who declared she was ‘So tired of this shizzle’. Similarly, feminist blogger Caroline Criado-Perez, who led the campaign to get a woman on the £5 note, said, ‘I’m just tired of protesting this shit’. Emily Thornberry, another outspoken Labour MP, added that the underrepresentation of women was ‘exasperating’.
This latest scandal begs the question: why can’t feminists give all this tiresome whinging a rest? I have my own criticisms of the new passport. I would have probably chosen someone better than Anish Kapoor, whose work is celebrated in the new design, to represent the creative talent of modern Britain. But the fact remains that most people are more interested in where their passport can take them, rather than the drawings inside it.
More than that, the complaining about the new passports, rallying online under the #herstory hashtag, is ignoring the reality of history. As hard as it is for modern, liberated women to swallow, historically speaking, more men than women have achieved impressive things – precisely because of the past inequalities women squashed in their political fight for liberation. Changing the past to adhere to modern wishes doesn’t better women’s lives today, it only skews our understanding of history.
I share Creasy and Criado-Perez’s exhaustion, not because I want to campaign for more public pictures of women, but because I’m truly sick of having to refute the idea that women need to be barraged with representations of important women in order to be inspired. The idea that I need to see Mary Wollstonecraft on every item in my handbag, from my passport to my cash, in order to feel important and valued is pathetic.
While feminists are wasting their time whinging about such superficial matters, they could be campaigning for change that would actually better women’s lives. How about fighting for abortion on demand and an end to state intervention into women’s reproductive choice? No, feminists aren’t keen on fighting those battles – probably because they’re a lot harder to win than slapping a woman on a fiver or penning a 140-character hissy fit.
Ella Whelan is staff writer at spiked. Follow her on Twitter: @Ella_M_Whelan