The access to and handling of money play an essential role in our society. They are still tainted with taboo and too seldom looked upon through the lens of gender and/or violence prevention.
With this technique, we want to invite participants to reflect on the use of money with a gender aspect in mind. It was developed after a visit to the money museum of the Austrian National Bank. Among other things, it presents the history of money, historical banknotes, and former means of payment such as salt or cacao beans. This historical embedment serves as a starting point for the activity, which is suitable as a thematic entry point.1
See the website of the Austrian National Bank (OeNB): https://www.oenb.at/Ueber-Uns/Geldmuseum/Ausstellungen.html ↩︎
This technique is suitable for groups of 5 to 20 participants.
The focus of this exercise is on the thematic complex gender and money. With it, the focus is on the representation of images of gender and the historical development of representational practices of coins and banknotes, from their introduction until today’s world.
The exercise consists of different parts: a theoretical overview of the history of money, the concrete debate about coins and banknotes, and depending on time and group, creation of own banknotes.
We start with a brief theoretical summary of the history of money: as background information, the brochure of the Austrian National Bank is very helpful. It presents a solid overview of the modes of exchange which preceded money such as cattle, grain, fur, cacao beans, cowry, metals, salt, followed on with images of different coins and banknotes until the present time.1
In Europe, traditionally, coins depicted rulers’ portraits. The so-called homage thaler (Huldigungstaler) for Archduke Ferdinand II of Tyrol was the first machine embossed coin.2
Empress Maria-Theresia finally introduced copper coins and paper money, and with this reform, she initiated the transition to the modern monetary system. At that time, the so-called Maria Theresia thaler (in the year 1741) was introduced. Until today, it remains the most famous silver coin in the world, showing the portrait of the empress.3
Modern coins became machine-made mass products, whose further characteristic is the fact that its material value is no longer the determining factor for its value. In Austria, in 1923, so-called “Schillingmünzen“ — the schilling — followed the former currencies heller and kronen.
After 1950, important historical figures were portrayed on banknotes. The choice who to depict, which was deemed important, reflected gender-specific assumptions. The painting “The 22 famous Austrians depicted on schilling banknotes since 1945 as a group image“ by Peter Sengl merely shows three women: a Nobel Peace Prize laureate Bertha von Suttner, a painter Angelika Kauffmann, and a writer and feminist Rosa Mayreder.4
How pressing this topic still is showed a British debate from 2017, which discussed whether there should be another woman depicted on a banknote, with the only woman on a banknote being the Queen. Finally, the writer Jane Austen was chosen to be portrayed on a 10-pound note. However, the woman who started the campaign, Caroline Criado-Perez, received rape and death threats.5
January 1, 2001, finally saw the introduction of the Euro as the common currency for members of European Union although not all members, e.g. the Czech Republic, were and are part of the European Monetary Union.
We now take a closer look at the current euro coins and banknotes:
How are they designed?
Why there are no rulers/politicians depicted on them no longer?
What do the current images convey? What do they represent?
Are these images/depictions free from gender-specific connotations? Why yes, why not?
We then concern ourselves with the feel of the coins and banknotes and try to grasp them in the truest sense of the word:
How does it feel to hold a coin or banknote in your hand?
What does it mean to me to hold money in the form of a coin/a note in my hand?
What can I buy with it?
We now create our own banknotes. As an additional preparation, one can analyze so-called 0-Euro notes. These are souvenirs that can be bought but are not means of payment, therefore, they have a face value of 0 Euro.6
The same analysis as described above will be carried out with a 0-Euro note. Moreover, further questions, which are explicitly concerned with the gender topic, should be discussed:
Which motives were chosen? Why?
Which celebrated public characters are depicted? Why do you think they were chosen?
How are they pictured?
Which professions do they have?
Which gender would you assign to them?
Are there any personalities you would like to see on a banknote? Why?
Would you even like to see depictions of people on your banknotes? Why and why not?
After this discussion round, participants are invited to create their own banknotes. This can be done with a printed out template, or participants can choose their own size. Each participant can show their/her/his banknote and explain the design.
Note: Make sure that all features of a real banknote are also on the self-created banknotes. This allows for further discussions and gives all banknotes a common framework.
See OeNB: Das Geld. Eine Publikation des Geldmuseums Wien 2018; Download at https://www.oenb.at/Ueber-Uns/Geldmuseum/Ausstellungen/das-geld.html (Katalog – Das Geld). ↩︎
See Ibid, p. 32. ↩︎
See Münze Österreich: https://www.muenzeoesterreich.at/anlegen/anlagemuenzen/maria-theresien-taler ↩︎
See OeNB: Das Geld, p. 52–54. ↩︎
See f. e. Heeger, Viola: Warum die Welt für Männer „gemacht“ ist. „Frauen werden einfach vergessen“. Der Tagesspiegel, 1.3.2020. https://www.tagesspiegel.de/gesellschaft/warum-die-welt-fuer-maenner-gemacht-ist-frauen-werden-einfach-vergessen/25570264.html ↩︎