I am sure there are feminists, folk who identify as women, folk who love women, historians, experts that are examining the Everywoman statue in detail. There are stories in the news rethinking and expanding our understanding of what Mary Wollstonecraft stood for. And yet the only thing I hate about the statue of Mary Wollstonecraft on Newington Green is the size. Why is it so small for someone who contributed so much for women?
The naked depiction of a woman is a true celebration of the 1792 book, A Vindication of Rights of Women Demanded. Though this is not her only work, it most certainly is the one that comes to mind when one thinks of naked women. The female form has in the past been used and is still used to debase women. Yet the naked ‘Mary’ statue, complete with a chiselled body and perky boobs conforms to some of the harmful beauty ideals – well besides the full bush.
Mary Wollstonecraft is the mother of British feminism. This naked depiction celebrated her arguments against the affection for clothes when it comes to defining women. I can hear Mary asking – Why can women not have their boobs shone? Women continue to be treated like sexual objects, beautiful things which they are but they are also more than beauty. Women are intelligent and continue to prove their educational strengths.
The same ideas that Mary addressed in 1792 women are still addressing today. This statue reminds us that in today’s world women continue to find space and show they are not the weak seductresses with inferior brain to men. The inscription reminds us of what she stood for strong women who had power over themselves and not over men. Women can be sexy, Instagram sexy, Facebook sex. Anyone can be sexy but that should not be the only definition of women and Mary stood for that. Some find their sexual appeal gives them strength but that too is another conversation for another day because it takes away from the celebration of Mary.
But oh goodness, the statue is so small, almost modestly small. How does such a small statue remind us to rally against social forces that continue to fight against feminism. That all-natural female bush could have really been prominent without the need for a zoom in. After all, Mary never denied that women could have sex appeal and achievements. Like Maggi Hambling, the artist behind the statue said, “The point is that she has to be naked because clothes define people. We all know that clothes are limiting, and she is everywoman.” Therefore, this statue is Mary’s words reaching out to us from the past and reminding us that women can reach their full potential when they are sexy, smart, and exercising their brain.