'Insulting to her': Mary Wollstonecraft sculpture sparks backlash

The Guardian-2 months before

The new sculpture was met with dismay and bafflement by some when it was unveiled in north London on Tuesday, with critics asking why it did not directly depict Wollstonecraft and why the “mother of feminism” had been celebrated with a naked female form.

when it was unveiled The sculpture, which shows a silvery naked everywoman fig...re held up by a swirling mingle of female forms, is the product of 10 years of hard graft and persistent fundraising by the Mary on The Green campaign, which raised the £143,000 required for its creation.

Mary on The Green But on Tuesday some critics described the artwork – created by Maggi Hambling, one of Britain’s most important and occasionally controversial artists – as a missed opportunity.

Maggi Hambling Caroline Criado-Perez, who played a key role in the campaign to erect a statue of Millicent Fawcett, the first of a woman in Parliament Square, said the decision-making process had been “catastrophically wrong”.

“I don’t for a second want to take away from the huge effort that they put into doing this, it is an amazing achievement, but what a waste of all the hard work,” she said.

“I honestly feel that actually this representation is insulting to her. I can’t see her feeling happy to be represented by this naked, perfectly formed wet dream of a woman.”

A woman photographs the new sculpture of British author and feminist icon Mary Wollstonecraft. Facebook Twitter Pinterest She argued that, as a piece of political art, it should have depicted a recognisable Wollstonecraft, as less than 3% of statues in the UK were of non-royal women – . “We’ve celebrated so few women from the past that the temptation is to attempt [to represent] all of womanhood, which is never an issue when it’s a male statue,” she said.

The writer Caitlin Moran tweeted: “Imagine if there was a statue of a hot young naked guy ‘in tribute’ to eg Churchill. It would look mad. This, also, looks mad.”

But Hambling told PA Media that the statue was every woman and clothes would have restricted her to a time and place. “It’s not a conventional heroic or heroinic likeness of Mary Wollstonecraft. It’s a sculpture about now, in her spirit,” she said.

Bee Rowlatt, a writer who has been a central figure in the fight to have a statue of Wollstonecraft, said the statue represented “an idea of collaboration” and the birth of feminism.

“Maggie Hambling is a pioneering artist and we wanted to do something different to putting people on pedestals,” she said. “We could have done something really, really boring and ordinary, and, and very Victorian and old fashioned. And, you know, I would be having a slightly easier day today.”

The female figure was not sexualised, she added: “It’s not inviting. It’s challenging. It’s a challenging artwork, and it’s meant to be.”

Others criticised the form of the naked figure. Writer Tracy King, who was involved in the Millicent Fawcett statue campaign, said: “Any passing teenage boy is not going to think, oh, that’s an icon of feminist education. They are going to think – tits!”

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