Originally published in qmunicate, May 2016
A petition on Change.org which campaigned for a statue of a suffragette to be built in Parliament Square has seen recent success with new Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s support. The petition, started by feminist activist Caroline Criado-Perez, aims to have the statue in place by 2018, to commemorate 100 years of female suffrage.
None of the eleven statues currently located in Parliament Square are women – whilst depicting great men such as Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi, women’s contribution to politics is directly ignored, thus adding to what Criado-Perez describes as the pervading myth that politics and the running of the country are not relevant to women, a belief amplified by the fact that only 29% of MPs are women.
The petition, signed by over 71,000 people and supported by prominent feminists such as Emma Watson, Caroline Lucas and J.K. Rowling, in addition to various other high-profile figures, states that this is another example of the underrepresentation of women in modern society. It further emphasises the importance of positive role models, such as the suffragettes, and argues that inclusion of women into this exclusive band of prized democrats in Parliament Square would be a means of City Hall – in particular Sadiq Khan who has described himself as a ‘proud feminist’ – recognising both the incredible contribution suffragettes have made to Britain’s democracy and making a further commitment to the presence of women in politics today.
The petition is one of several which aims to tackle the lack of acknowledgement of women’s historic achievements: Criado-Perez has previously successfully campaigned for celebrated British author Jane Austen to be placed on the £10 note, and recently the University of Glasgow opened the new Isabella Elder building on campus, which honours a Glasgow philanthropist who promoted women’s education. Although a statue, a portrait on a note and a building (and lack thereof) might not seem like such a big deal in a sea of male achievements, it’s only too easy to forget that women have actually contributed to society, a depressing fact in today’s fourth wave of feminism. But there is hope – and a suffragette in Parliament Square is just one exciting example.