Statue Honouring Mary Wollstonecraft Unveiled In London; Attracts Feminist Criticism For Its Nudity

“My sculpture involves this tower of intermingling female forms culminating in the figure of the woman at the top, who is challenging and ready to challenge the world."- sculptor Maggi Hambling

Rudrani Gupta
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Mary Wollstonecraft statue

On Tuesday, a statue of a naked woman was unveiled in Newington Green of London to honour the 18th-century British feminist writer and advocate of women’s rights Mary Wollstonecraft. The statue features a naked woman atop a swirl embedded with other female forms and is sculpted by British artist Maggi Hambling. It costs £143,300 and was built after a 10-year-long campaign.


The sculptor Hambling has made clear in a video that the statue is not of nude Mary Wollstonecraft but of a naked woman. In her explanation of the idea behind the statue, she said, “My sculpture involves this tower of intermingling female forms culminating in the figure of the woman at the top, who is challenging and ready to challenge the world."

However, as per reports, the statue is being criticised by many feminists and activists for not doing justice to Wollstonecraft who is regarded as “the mother of Feminism”.While there also others who justified the artwork and the unique representation of Wollstonecraft.

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Activist Elaine Crory took to Twitter to express her dissatisfaction with the statue and said that it should have featured Wollstonecraft’s face to honour her. "Not a naked 'everywoman' who just so happens to have super perky breasts etc. Sick of this," she tweeted.

But is it really about the nudity of the sculptor that attracted criticism or is there a deeper meaning to it? Feminist writer Mona Eltahawy clarified that more than the nudity of the statue, the way it has been imagined and sculpted is problematic. Is there a male gaze behind it? In a tweet where she compared Wollstonecraft's statue and the statue of Medusa holding Perseus' head she wrote, “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?"

Focussing on the same point, writer Tracy King tweeted, "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."

British writer Malorie Blackman questioned why Wollstonecraft, a female writer, was posed as naked while the male authors’ statues show them well-decked. On Twitter she said, “Genuine question: Why present Mary Wollstonecraft as naked? I’ve seen many statues of male writers, rights activists and philosophers and I can’t remember any of them being bare-a**ed."

Although, Blackman appreciated the uniqueness of the statue that explores fluid forms of the female gender. "As a study of fluid female forms it's interesting and if it is just that and dedicated to her, then fair enough. It’s an interesting piece though and has done what good art should do, it has got people discussing it,” she further tweeted.

Moreover, historian Dr. Fern Riddell also appreciated the statue for representing a “massive combination of themes”, which is one of the many reasons why she like the statue. She tweeted, “I love the water like a raging wave, I like the mechanical aspect of the figure,” and this culmination of different themes reminds her “of how women are created in images that never match their thoughts."

Picture Credit: PC: mail

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Mary Wollstonecraft Mary Wollstonecraft statue