After the Jane Austen announcement I suffered rape threats for 48 hours, but I'm still confident the trolls won't win

Let's start feeding the trolls.

On Wednesday the 24 July, the Bank of England made the historic announcement that, in response to over 35,000 people signing a petition, they were confirming Jane Austen as the next historical figure on banknotes.

“this Perez one just needs a good smashing up the arse and she’ll be fine”

Even better from my perspective, the Bank of England also agreed to institute a review of its criteria and procedures, admitting that its current processes were inadequate if they wanted to live up to promote equality.

“Everyone jump on the rape train > @CCriadoPerez is conductor”; “Ain’t no brakes where we’re going”

The day was overwhelming. Press from all over the world were getting in touch, wanting to talk about the power of social media, and how ordinary people could take on a huge institution and win.

“Wouldn’t mind tying this bitch to my stove. Hey sweetheart, give me a shout when you’re ready to be put in your place”

This has been my life for the past three days: a mixture of overwhelming pride at what we can achieve when we stick together – and overwhelming horror at the vehement hatred some men still feel for women who don’t “know their place”.

The rape threats started on Thursday, and have continued for the past forty-eight hours. And this experience is by no means unique to me. Amid the abuse, I have received countless messages from women telling me of their experiences. The head of WHO called violence against women a “global health problem of epidemic proportions”; she should take a look at twitter, where we have our own nasty little epidemic: an epidemic of misogynistic men who feel so threatened by any woman speaking up, that they feel they must immediately silence her with a threat of sexual violence.

There are those who tell me that I shouldn’t feed the trolls. Ignore them, they’ll get bored and go away. They’re just looking for attention.

Except these ones are different. They’re not looking for attention. They are purely and simply looking to shut me, and any other woman who dares use her voice in public, “the fuck up”. And we shouldn’t give them what they want. We shouldn’t give them what they want because we have a right to speak and be heard. And we shouldn’t give them what they want because, when we don’t, we are stronger than them.

The don’t feed the trolls adage is one that suggests they have the power. But if my experience from the last 48 hours does anything, it is to give the lie to this impression. Troll accounts have been going private left right and centre. My twitter mentions are now overflowing with messages of support, messages from people saying that they want to shout back too. Messages from people realising that if we use our voice in unison, we are legion.

While Twitter’s manager of News and Journalism, Mark S. Luckie, locked his account when a people started tweeting him to tell him about the hours of rape threats I had been receiving, countless more have stood with me. One person, Kim Graham, set up a petition asking twitter to put a “report abuse” button on each tweet; it’s received over 6,000 signatures in about an hour. And it will only continue to grow.

Over the past few days I have been overwhelmed by abuse, and I have been overwhelmed by support. I have felt elated – and I have felt close to defeat. But as I watch my timeline, it is clear which group is bigger. It is clear which group is louder. It is clear which group is stronger.

Let’s remember this. Let’s start feeding the trolls. Let’s start shouting back, and show them that we’re not going away, that we won’t be defeated. Let’s take them on. And let’s win.

Caroline Criado-Perez (right) with Mary Macleod, Mark Carney and Stella Creasy unveiling the new Jane Austen £10 note. Photograph: Getty.

Caroline Criado-Perez is a freelance journalist and feminist campaigner. She is also the co-founder of The Women's Room and tweets as @CCriadoPerez.

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BHS is Theresa May’s big chance to reform capitalism – she’d better take it

Almost everyone is disgusted by the tale of BHS. 

Back in 2013, Theresa May gave a speech that might yet prove significant. In it, she declared: “Believing in free markets doesn’t mean we believe that anything goes.”

Capitalism wasn’t perfect, she continued: 

“Where it’s manifestly failing, where it’s losing public support, where it’s not helping to provide opportunity for all, we have to reform it.”

Three years on and just days into her premiership, May has the chance to be a reformist, thanks to one hell of an example of failing capitalism – BHS. 

The report from the Work and Pensions select committee was damning. Philip Green, the business tycoon, bought BHS and took more out than he put in. In a difficult environment, and without new investment, it began to bleed money. Green’s prize became a liability, and by 2014 he was desperate to get rid of it. He found a willing buyer, Paul Sutton, but the buyer had previously been convicted of fraud. So he sold it to Sutton’s former driver instead, for a quid. Yes, you read that right. He sold it to a crook’s driver for a quid.

This might all sound like a ludicrous but entertaining deal, if it wasn’t for the thousands of hapless BHS workers involved. One year later, the business collapsed, along with their job prospects. Not only that, but Green’s lack of attention to the pension fund meant their dreams of a comfortable retirement were now in jeopardy. 

The report called BHS “the unacceptable face of capitalism”. It concluded: 

"The truth is that a large proportion of those who have got rich or richer off the back of BHS are to blame. Sir Philip Green, Dominic Chappell and their respective directors, advisers and hangers-on are all culpable. 

“The tragedy is that those who have lost out are the ordinary employees and pensioners.”

May appears to agree. Her spokeswoman told journalists the PM would “look carefully” at policies to tackle “corporate irresponsibility”. 

She should take the opportunity.

Attempts to reshape capitalism are almost always blunted in practice. Corporations can make threats of their own. Think of Google’s sweetheart tax deals, banks’ excessive pay. Each time politicians tried to clamp down, there were threats of moving overseas. If the economy weakens in response to Brexit, the power to call the shots should tip more towards these companies. 

But this time, there will be few defenders of the BHS approach.

Firstly, the report's revelations about corporate governance damage many well-known brands, which are tarnished by association. Financial services firms will be just as keen as the public to avoid another BHS. Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors, said that the circumstances of the collapse of BHS were “a blight on the reputation of British business”.

Secondly, the pensions issue will not go away. Neglected by Green until it was too late, the £571m hole in the BHS pension finances is extreme. But Tom McPhail from pensions firm Hargreaves Lansdown has warned there are thousands of other defined benefit schemes struggling with deficits. In the light of BHS, May has an opportunity to take an otherwise dusty issue – protections for workplace pensions - and place it top of the agenda. 

Thirdly, the BHS scandal is wreathed in the kind of opaque company structures loathed by voters on the left and right alike. The report found the Green family used private, offshore companies to direct the flow of money away from BHS, which made it in turn hard to investigate. The report stated: “These arrangements were designed to reduce tax bills. They have also had the effect of reducing levels of corporate transparency.”

BHS may have failed as a company, but its demise has succeeded in uniting the left and right. Trade unionists want more protection for workers; City boys are worried about their reputation; patriots mourn the death of a proud British company. May has a mandate to clean up capitalism - she should seize it.