Change is a funny thing. It’s often prompted by a small action that takes on a much larger cultural meaning, and can catch us by surprise with its utter simplicity.
A few weeks ago, I came across a short video entitled, “Where Are the Girls on the Money?” on the website womenon20s.org. Women on 20s is an online campaign to put a woman’s face on the $20 bill. I was excited to see that there was a positive mission afoot to bring attention to some of the greatest women in American history.
As the Women on 20s website points out, “the year 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment that granted women the right to vote. So it seems fitting to commemorate that milestone by voting to elevate women to a place that is today reserved exclusively for the men who shaped American history. That place is on our paper money and that new portrait can become a symbol of greater changes to come.”
I liked how it was reframing the conversation about gender equality in a whole new way and decided to post a photo on social media that championed the cause and urged others to vote for one of the 15 incredible candidates on the Women on 20s website.
The response was thrilling. And not just because my friends Padma Lakshmi and Alan Cumming and throngs of others began to tweet and post their support, but because it ignited a passion in people from all over the world to proudly post images of the accomplished women in other countries who were already adorning their currency. This unexpected and gorgeous mosaic brought attention to the fact that there are already at least 10 other countries that have recognized female leaders on their banknotes, including Argentina, Sweden, Turkey, Mexico, the Philippines, Israel, and Syria. And while the United States often likes to take credit for leading the world in big, bold ideas, in this instance at least, it’s clear we lag far behind.
Gender equality is a fight women in the United States have been waging for a long time. It’s been a long and winding road with scores of brilliant women over the decades doing their part to push that boulder uphill. Women like Billie Jean King, Sally Ride, and Bell Hooks, who are all personal heroes of mine.
Each of the women being considered to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill on womenon20s.org deserves our appreciation. Not only did they help advance women’s rights, but they pushed the human race forward as well, and we are all benefiting from their efforts.
“If a girl was on the money, then it would be fair,” says one of the 5-year-old boys in the Women on 20s video. That’s right, it would be fair. Isn’t it funny how a simple truth can come from the mouth of babes?
Please go to womenon20s.org to learn more about the Women on 20s mission and show your support by posting your own photo on social media with a $20 bill using hashtag #Womenon20s. It’s a great idea and a wonderful history lesson.
Susan Sarandon is a mother, an activist and an actress. She is also the founder of Reframed Pictures (reframedpictures.com), a film, TV and digital production company in New York City that uses the power of media to tell transformational stories with lasting social impact.