Mary Wollstonecraft nude statue backlash

@EllaWitchwood/Twitter

Twitter users slam nude statue honoring feminist icon Mary Wollstonecraft

‘It’s a shocking waste of an opportunity that can’t be undone. But hey, tits!

 

Siobhan Ball

Internet Culture

Famous 18th-century writer Mary Wollstonecraft, often hailed as the mother of feminism, was commemorated with a statue in England on Tuesdsay. But unlike most public figures memorialized in this way, the statue doesn’t depict Wollstonecraft herself. Instead, sculptor Maggi Hambling produced a small female nude atop a pillar made from swirling, abstract female forms, titling her sculpture “For Mary Wollstonecraft.”

Mary Wollstonecraft ‘Mother of feminism’ Born 1759 Abused by drunk father Educated herself Set up girls’ boarding school at 25 Wrote about the rights of women Mixed in academic circles Died age 38 after giving birth to the author Mary Shelley Gets a statue - great! Oh. Person facepalming
@RuthWilsonPR

The anonymous nude sculpture has received a lot of backlash on Twitter.

“I am glad that we are all talking about #MarryWollstonecraft today,” Sophie Walker tweeted. “I think it’s really important to celebrate and mark with public statues the contribution of women. I know how hard and for how long the team worked to make this happy. I also really wish it wasn’t a naked statue.”

I am glad that we are all talking about #MaryWollstonecraft today. I think it's really important to celebrate and mark with public statues the contribution of women. I know how hard and for how long the team worked to make this happen. I also really wish it wasn't a naked statue.
@RuthWilsonPR

“I know a thing or fifty about statues of women and this is exactly what you get if you let lazy art values come before the politics the statue is meant to represent,” Tracy King tweeted. “It’s a shocking waste of an opportunity that can’t be undone. But hey, tits!”

'I know a thing or fifty about statues of women and this is exactly what you get if you let lazy art values come before the politics the statue is meant to represent. It’s a shocking waste of an opportunity that can’t be undone. But hey, tits!' Embedded tweet by Tabitha McIntosh '1. Contemporary portrait of Mary Wollstonecraft 2. New statue of Mary Wollstonecraft Fuck all the fucks off' portrait of Mary Wollenstoncraft looking sternly at the viewer beside the statue
@tkingdot
Two tweets by Caroline Criado Perez 'i just have one more thing to say because i think it's important: this feels disrespectful to wollstonecraft herself and isn't that the most important part? In Wollstonecraft's own words: “Taught from their infancy that beauty is woman's sceptre, the mind shapes itself to the body, and roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison.” Just sad, really sad.'
@tkingdot

Many are asking why, when the lack of statues representing real women in London was a driving force behind the campaign, Hambling opted for an anonymous nude figure representing the generalized “spirit” of woman rather than a sculpture of the individual woman being commemorated. It was especially puzzling as both London and the wider Western artistic canon are already full of idealized nude female figures used to represent various concepts and ideas.

“It’s a bit odd – all the occasions where we have irrelevant focus on womens’ appearance, then on the one occasion that we do want it to be a recognisable likeness we have this?” Twitter user @Dianne85952818 asked.

It's a bit odd - all the occasions where we have irrelevant focus on womens' appearance, then on the one occasion that we do want it to be a recognisable likeness we have this?
@Dsweettea9KL

@WordcandyBooks quipped, “Frankly, it feels like someone said: ‘FINE, SHE CAN GET A STATUE… but she’s gotta be naked.’”

And I'm one of them. Frankly, it feels like someone said: 'FINE, SHE CAN GET A STATUE... but she's gotta be naked.'
@Dsweettea9KL
This. When there are more statues of women than there are statues of blokes called John maybe we can get a little abstract but this is running before we can walk
@thingsbyuna

Hambling told the Evening Standard that her critics just didn’t understand her statue, claiming that the figure needed to be nude because “she’s everywoman and clothes would have restricted her. Statues in historic costume look like they belong to history because of their clothes. … As far as I know, she’s more or less the shape we’d all like to be.”

However, many feminist commentators pushed back against Hambling’s reasoning. While nudity in art isn’t inherently oppressive or objectifying, context is everything. For a lot of Twitter users, the use of an anonymous, nude female figure only further objectifies and dehumanizes women and their bodies—especially when the statues commemorating men are nearly always representational and clothed. Rather than depicting Wollstonecraft or her work and adding to the public representation of important women, the statue depicts the concept of women as “hot and naked,” ready for the male gaze.

“Nudity is not the issue. What is being conveyed and for whose gaze is,” Mona Eltahawy tweeted. “Why, after years of so few statues of women, is the naked female form of statues being erected for & about women?”

'Again: nudity is not the issue. What is being conveyed and for whose gaze is. Why, after years of so few statues of women, is the naked female form of statues being erected for & about women? Whether it’s a statue for #MaryWollstonecraft in #London or #Medusa in #NYC' pictures of the two sculptures side by side
@monaeltahawy

“This ‘glorification of the feminine form’ nonsense is just that, nonsense,” @JConabicycle wrote. “The fact of the matter is, in western society, CLOTHING=POWER. If being half or entirely naked was a way to confer POWER every g0ddamned Republican in the US Senate would show up for work in assless chaps!”

This 'glorification of the feminine form' nonsense is just that, nonsense. The fact of the matter is, in western society, CLOTHING=POWER. If being half or entirely naked was a way to confer POWER every g0ddamned Republican in the US Senate would show up for work in assless chaps!
@JConabicycle
So a woman genius can't be honored for herself. It has to be for all the tiny naked women in the world? Vindication was not written by a tiny naked woman! Looking forward to penis statues of Mary's contemporaries -- Paine, Blake, Wordsworth etc.
@JConabicycle
'a) every woman doesn't look like this b) FAMOUS MALE INTELLECTUALS GET STATUES OF THEM SO WE SEE THEM AND REMEMBER THEM c) being hot and naked so regularly defines women that to deliberately play INTO it does nothing but reinforce tired old tropes.' embedded tweet by Nicholas Chinardet: According to Hamlin, the sculptor, (this morning on Today) it's not a statue OF but a statue TO her. The figure represents every woman and she is naked because clothes define people
@JConabicycle
I know there are many people who think that the female body is beautiful but there really is no need to objectify it like that. They should do a some statue of Louis Pasteur naked in the laboratory and see how that goes over.
@m_dsemwilson
Statues of named men get to be clothed because the focus is on their work and achievements. Meanwhile, women walking or jogging through parks experience high rates of sexual harassment BECAUSE OUR BODIES ARE CONSIDERED PUBLIC PROPERTY
@m_dsemwilson
I'll conclude by pointing out that, after a long campaign, London still doesn't have a statue of Mary Wollstonecraft. It does, however, have a statue of a tiny naked woman with a thigh gap, crafted by an artist who, I just learned, once said a few slaves might be ‘very handy’
@m_dsemwilson

Still more took issue with Hambling’s assertion that her statue’s body was the ideal for which most women were striving, or that this would make it representational of all women if so.

“Why does an ‘everywoman’ look so much like every idealised objectified female form ever?” Rose Rickford tweeted. “It certainly bares no resemblance to pretty much ANY actual woman. So sad.”

Why does an 'everywoman' look so much like every idealised objectified female form ever? It certainly bares no resemblance to pretty much ANY actual woman. So sad.
@RoseR253
All people will see is a statue of a naked woman with a 'perfect' body. Which is all the statue really is. A gift to the male ideal of a woman and nothing that conveys her brilliance, talent and feminism. Not a thing.
@RoseR253
I love how the naked woman on the Wollstonecraft statue is supposed to be an “everywoman” but actually looks like an artist’s impression of a male author’s shit description of his female character.
@RoseR253

In the hours since the statue’s unveiling, it seems that people took direct action to rectify the statue. Pictures now circulating on Twitter show the nude figure on top of the statue now dressed in a duct tape bikini and a cape made out of a disposable face mask.

'The Covid face mask brings this 'art' right in to 2020, and the fact that a 'feminist' sculpture had to have pants put on it because of its context. Wollstonecraft becomes a caped crusader. This now makes it a piece of art worth discussing because of the layer feminists added' Photograph of the silvered bronze nude wearing a duct tape bikini and with a disposable mask cape draped around her shoulders

“The Covid face mask brings this ‘art right in to 2020, and the fact that a ‘feminist’ sculpture had to have pants put on it because of its context,” Ella Witchwood tweeted. “This now makes it a piece of art worth discussing because of the layer feminists added.”


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