Only 13% of the statues in the UK are of historical female figures – in fact, you’re more likely to find fictional women represented than their real life counterparts. And over half of those are members of the Royal family – so even less representative of the population at large, than invented and made up people.
After campaigning for many years, an effort is being made to right the balance. Mary Wollstoncraft was chosen to be erected in London, near the site of the girls school that she founded.
Her achievements are undoubted – the author of “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman”; the founder (at only 25) of a girls boarding school; the debater of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine and Joseph Priestley; the mother of Mary Shelley. Mary Wollstoncraft was a force of nature who changed the world.
Her statue is to be unveiled today. And unveiled is the right word. For some inexplicable reason, the ‘mother of feminism’ is depicted nude. Naked as a jay bird. Starkers.
And naturally rocking a hot toned bod.
The sculptor – Maggi Hambling CBE – said “This sculpture encourages a visual conversation with the obstacles Wollstonecraft overcame, the ideals she strived for, and what she made happen.”
Which was a good point of clarity because that was not the first impression I got.
She continued “A vital contemporary discourse for all that is still to be achieved.”
Which I guess is why this iconic women is nude. Because – as a society – we clearly still have so far to go – as in this case – we choose to celebrate someone of intellectual rigour by reducing them to their naked form because they’re a woman.
I am consoled somewhat by the fact that were Mary Wollstoncraft paying attention to the news this week – she would likely be more invested in Kamala Harris becoming the vice president elect then in this reductive piece of art.