Known as the ‘mother of feminism’, the 18th century writer is perhaps most well-known for her 1790 workA Vindication of the Rights of Woman. And so a sculpture marking her historical significance was finally unveiled on Tuesday in London, and its creators faced almost immediate criticism on social media.
The new silvery naked sculpture – a product of the 'Mary on The Green' campaign – prompted critics to call it 'sexist', 'insulting' and 'demeaning', asking why it did not directly depict Wollstonecraft and, specifically, why she had been 'reduced to a sex object'.
Others were quick to note that famous male authors are never represented without clothes: “I’ve seen many statues of male writers, rights activists and philosophers and I can’t remember any of them being bare-assed.” One person said.
How many of our important male writers are depicted naked in their statues? You never see Charles Dickens with his… https://t.co/9pkr7E8YCm
— Dr Laura Richmond (@Dr Laura Richmond)
“Imagine if there was a statue of a hot young naked guy ‘in tribute’ to Churchill. It would look mad. This, also, l… https://t.co/lNeYEHKz7R
Bee Rowlatt, chairwoman of the 'Mary on the Green' campaign, also came to the statue’s defence saying: "This work is an attempt to celebrate her contribution to society with something that goes beyond the Victorian traditions of putting people on pedestals."
Prominent social commentator Mona Eltahawy refused this notion completely, saying: “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?”
And: which female form is being celebrated by those statues?
A cisgender woman’s body that is considered attractiv… https://t.co/GgPlowBYm8
Historian Dr Fern Riddell explained her positive perspective on Twitter:
"I love it because to me it’s a massive combination of themes, I love the water like a raging wave, I like the mechanical aspect of the figure, it reminds me of how women are created in images that never match their thoughts," she wrote.
But mostly, people were just confused to the point of hilarity.
As writer Hannah Jane Parkinson said, "I am genuinely crying with laughter at the new Hambling statue of Mary Wollstonecraft. The disrespect...I don't even know where to start."