No statues of women outside parliament? So what?
There are no statues of women outside parliament. Isn’t it awful? Doesn’t it make you want to gasp in outrage? Feminist and journalist Caroline Criado-Perez certainly thinks so. She spotted this slip-up recently while out for a jog with her dog. Pausing for thought, she noticed that there were 11 statues in Parliament Square, none of which depicted a woman.
In response to this omission, Criado-Perez has set up a petition on Change.org demanding that the new London mayor, Sadiq Khan, erect a statue of a Suffragette. At the time of writing, the petition had garnered 70,000 signatures. This is no doubt thanks to Criado-Perez’s past success in getting Jane Austen on the £10 note, as well as the numerous celebrity backers who have decided they won’t sleep until Parliament Square gets a dose of oestrogen. Signatories include the usual propagators of luvvie-pleasing politics, including Caroline Lucas, Emma Watson and JK Rowling.
Does anyone actually care that Parliament Square doesn’t have a statue of a woman? I’m not convinced. Even someone as supposedly politically active as Criado-Perez didn’t notice until that fateful jog. And while the victories of the women’s suffrage movement should be celebrated, that’s not really what this is about. The idea underpinning this campaign is that the lack of female statues will smash the ambitions of young, impressionable girls today.
What this misses is that most of the people who trot around Parliament Square (aside from politicians) aren’t would-be activists – they’re mainly bumbag-wielding tourists. And they’re too busy following maps to notice the lack of Suffragette statues around. Or perhaps they’re spending all their time fascinated by the statues of famous historical blokes like Jan Smuts or Henry John Temple.
This latest campaign is just another example of arbitrary feminism. In recent years, instead of fighting for material gains for women, feminist campaigners have begun inventing issues. Perhaps because they have become oversensitive, or maybe because it makes a good PR campaign – starting one of these campaigns is handy if you’re after a Guardian column.
That there aren’t any statues of women in Parliament Square is of little consequence – it’s the legacy of a time in which women were not equal, rather than an indicator of women’s standing today. If the Suffragettes were around today, I’m sure they’d tell these feminists to fry some bigger fish.
Charlotte Gill is a writer and blogger. Follow her on Twitter: @C_C_Gill