This post is by third year History student, Charlotte Tyrrell. You can also read a post on this statue by our lecturer Rachel Moss over here.

A Sculpture for Mary Wollstonecraft in Newington Green, London.

After taking part in my Citizenship and Gender class on feminism, my lecturer informed us that a statue of Mary Wollstonecraft had been unveiled and he would like to hear our opinions on it. The summer had seen a lot of publicity surrounding statues with the Black Lives Matter movement and so I was excited to see what this new feminist statue would look like. I was so disappointed when I saw images of the statue and read some of the comments from the artist. Wollstonecraft promoted equal education for boys and girls, she was an author and had so many achievements and yet, I don’t feel this statue represents any of this.

Mary Wollstonecraft by John Opie, c. 1797

In case you haven’t see it, the statue is a small, silver naked woman on top of what appears to be a giant mass. The statue is not of Mary Wollstonecraft but is supposed to represent ‘everywoman’. The artists comments explained how the ‘everywoman’ statue conveyed the body that most women aspire to have. I find this message extremely problematic for multiple reasons. How can there be an ‘every’ woman? Where is the ‘every’ man? The statue doesn’t look like me, my mum, my sister or my neighbour, in fact I can’t think of anyone resembling it. It doesn’t look like amputees or women with physical disabilities. The statue doesn’t represent women of colour. The statue doesn’t represent trans women. The statue doesn’t represent plus size women. The statue doesn’t represent all ages. The list of things this statue does not represent is extensive and yet it is supposed to represent ‘everywoman’.

As a woman who advocates body acceptance this statue is problematic. It is an exclusive icon and doesn’t embody the different shapes and sizes that women come in. In a society that is trying to teach the younger generations not to body shame but instead think about their personal attributes, I feel this statue is almost outdated. Mary Wollstonecraft wanted better education opportunities for girls but how does this statue convey that?

Why must society continue to sexualise woman? As a feminist and reformist, none of her achievements involved nudity and yet, a commemorative statue celebrating her work is of a naked woman. Why is it that statues of male reformists and radicals will be of them, no doubt fully clothed?  The message I receive from this statue is that the best way to get the publics attention is to have a naked woman involved. This statue doesn’t acknowledge the intellectual achievements of Wollstonecraft but instead shows a naked, imaginary woman.

I’m so disappointed by the execution of this statue as I think it had to the potential to be so much more powerful and positive than it actually was. Hopefully the next feminist statue will be fully clothed and will focus on their impact in history.

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