Venus on the Half (dollar) Shel
In a social-media inspired petition circulated on the web over the past 6-months or so, citizens have overwhelmingly called for the $20 to be the home of our first papered doll. With women only making .78-cents to every man’s dollar earned in this country, it is a slap in the face to offer a woman only $10 instead of the $20.
One astute commenter on the web noted that if the Treasury wanted to be honest, they’d have announced they were placing the first woman on the .78-cent coin. Of course we have put sufferagette Susan B. Anthony, as well as Native American guide mother and diplomat Sacagawea on the dollar coin, which only confused the citizens because….’Murica.
When it comes to symbolism, the U.S. Government often gets it so wrong, you have to wonder if they work over-time to screw things up, or to oppose the wishes of the people. Especially when it comes to money. The last time we gave the stink-eye to money in this country was with the re-issue of the State Quarters. While people in one particular state may vote on a symbol representing what they stand for on the ‘tails’ side, the rest of the country looks at that quarter, shrugs, and says, “uh,…I guess so.”
Look at the state Quarter for West Virginia. It features a bridge on what the U.S. Mint refers to as the “reverse” side. When I think of West Virginia I thing of a mountain with it’s top blown-off in search of coal, but I guess that may have been hard to portray on a coin. When I look at the back of the Louisiana quarter I see a map depiction of the Louisiana Purchase that took up a huge portion of the country at one time. Nice try, Louisiana, but your attempt at nostalgic largesse is like a bald guy wearing a t-shirt with a photo of him when he had hair.
There are others in the series that make you go, “wha-?” (I’m looking at you, Arkansas, Maryland, and Michigan (Really? A map of ALL the Great Lakes?) but these are coins. Metal currency tends to be an inconvenience, and a bad idea when you fall into a pool with a pocket full. Don’t think so? Try walking around London, England with 10-pounds in coins in your pocket. I stayed as far from the Thames as I could.
When it comes to bills, however, it’s a completely different experience. No one counterfeits coins any more, but with the concentrated effort showed toward paper-currency, it’s not wonder – and about time – we started getting creative with the designs on our money. What I pull out of my pocket these days looks like I got drunk the night before playing Monopoly and left the party with half the cash in my pants. We’ve gotten into colors and stripes and off kilter depictions of symbols and stars, arrayed in a seemingly impossible imprint to foil copying machines.
The problem is our creativity. And this from what has historically been one of the most creative countries in the world.
We, as a nation, are reluctant to re-examine our iconography. We cling to the symbols of our past in such a non-progressive way we seems less like a young nation, and more like a covetous, grumpy old man who is afraid someone else in the house is going to eat our share of the yogurt in the fridge. Instead of misogynistically hanging-on to outdated old bigots and racists on our money (Andrew Jackson) we should opt for truer, and more stream-lined symbols of what our country represents, and who represents us. Sure, we allowed women on our currency a few decades ago, but it should have happened a century ago – and don’t give me that “but, Lady Liberty is a woman” crap.
We have Ulysses S. Grant on our $50, and really, what did he do that was above and beyond others to land on our currency? He’s been there since 1929, and we’ve been too lazy or set in our ways to think about replacing him (until the House Financial Services Committee suggested placing Ronal Regan, of all people, on the $50 in 2005) with someone perhaps more deserving. As for Jackson still appearing on our $20 – don’t even get me started on that “great” American.
Perhaps every 78-years we should consider flipping the gender on all our paper currency, until women make the same as a man for the work they perform.