Newly Unveiled Statue of 'Mother of Feminism' Proves... Controversial

The question on everyone's lips: "Why is she naked?"
November 10, 2020, 5:29pm
Mary Wollstonecraft statue
Photo: James Veysey / Shutterstock

Today, London’s Newington Green saw the unveiling of a statue of Mary Wollstonecraft, known as “the mother of feminism”.

Wollstonecraft wrote a number of books, including several novels and a history of the French revolution (of which she was a fan), but she is most famous for her 1792 text A Vindication of the Rights of Women, considered by many to be the urtext of contemporary feminism. Think How to Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran, except published in the 18th century and completely different.

All in all, she’s a towering figure of British history, someone entirely deserving of public commemoration. A statue sounds like a great idea! Perhaps something tasteful would do the trick? A normal statue, in the usual fashion?

In the end, they decided to go in a slightly different direction. For a start, Wollstonecraft is completely naked, constructed out of a kind of sci-fi, robot-looking silvered bronze, sitting atop a strange, twisting structure, described by the BBC as “a swirling mingle of female forms”. The statue was designed by artist Maggi Hambling CBE, and I personally think it looks quite cool.

However, the reaction on social media has been mixed: some people love it, others have argued that the statue’s nudity renders it disrespectful. Caroline Criado Perez, the writer well-known for the campaign to get Jane Austen on a £10 note, tweeted the statue "feels disrespectful to Wollstonecraft herself". Historian Simon Chama, meanwhile, said: “always wanted a fine monument to Wollstonecraft – this isn't it".

But does a woman being naked make her any less worthy of respect? This male feminist says not.