In fairness to them, some of the reason for the upset is righteous. “Alexander Hamilton is not someone that people have a problem with,” said the director of the Women On 20s campaign. Why kick the great man off the currency instead of the far more dubious Andrew Jackson? I couldn’t agree more.
But that’s not the only reason. Some feel that women are being, er, shortchanged:
And then there’s this: the $20 bill is more visible than the $10 bill. As of 2014, there were more than 8.1 billion $20 bills in circulation, compared to 1.9 $10 bills. Of the denominations under $500, only the $50 and the $2 bills circulate less.
Putting a woman on the $10 instead of the $20 means six billion fewer copies of her image in circulation. Ain’t it just like our sexist president to think he can make women happy by giving them less than he gives men? Just because it works that way in the White House, champ, doesn’t mean it has to on the currency.
Other critiques of Treasury’s new plans for the $10 are, shall we say, more nuanced. Because Hamilton bills will remain in circulation for many years to come, he’ll effectively be sharing the $10 with a woman rather than ceding it entirely. And you know what that means. Right: Patriarchy.
On the Facebook page for the Women on 20s campaign, some of the most-liked comments criticized the Treasury Department’s decision. “Women ask to be on the $20, so we get offered the $10,” one person wrote. “Never, never give a woman what she asks for.” Another commented, “Placing a woman on a bill with Alexander Hamilton makes the same sexist statement that our currency has made all along—that a woman cannot be independent or important without a man.” And, “A man [Jack Lew] gets ‘final say’ over which woman. This feels like a slap in the face.”
Why, this whole process is such an infuriating slight to women that maybe the sensitive thing to do is apologize and stick with our all-male currency for awhile longer.
Or better yet, here’s an idea that Sean Trende of RCP was kicking around on Twitter yesterday: If you want to honor more women on the currency, why not print two versions of each bill, one with a famous man, one with a famous woman? Treasury would presumably grumble about how that makes counterfeiting easier, but I thought most of the anti-counterfeiting measures incorporated into American currency are found outside the portrait in the center. If all your changing are the portraits, how many more opportunities for counterfeiting are you really creating? The advantage of this, obviously, is that it would give you several more platforms on which to honor deserving women like Harriet Tubman or Alice Paul without forcing you to drop a deserving man like Hamilton. Why not try it?
Actually, maybe the core objection to adding portraits to the currency via alternate versions of each bill is that Americans will lose track of who’s supposed to be on their money and who isn’t. Announce that “new faces” are coming to the $10, $20, $50, and $100 and a decent counterfeiter could probably slip Kardashian notes into circulation without much trouble.