Mary Wollstonecraft sculpture lined up with ‘girl’ t-shirt amid feminism row

The nude sculpture commemorating feminist icon Mary Wollstonecraft has been covered up with clothes by protesters.

The artwork, by artist Maggi Hamblong and cast in silvered bronze, sparked fierce debate after it was unveiled on Tuesday, with critics saying the naked female figure was an insult to the 18th-century writer and thinker.

Writer Caitlin Moran, among others, asked why male intellectuals and historical figures haven’t been celebrated with nudity.

On Wednesday morning, the statue in north London’s Newington Green, was dressed in a black T-shirt with the definition “Woman Noun Adult human female” on it.

Janice Williams, who along with Dr Julia Long put the T-shirt on the sculpture, said: “The statue shows the great Wollstonecraft as tiny and represented like a porn star, it’s awful. In the statue she is young — but she achieved great things when older.”

Dr Long said: “I walk through this green every day, I want to see a positive image and this is not. It encourages sexual harassment. It’s an insult to her. We need to assert the rights of women. It’s insulting to the local community.”

One witness said she saw another woman remove the T-shirt later this morning.

Suzanne Fedderholdt said: “A woman jumped up with a stick and got it off. She was a hero. We support the statue and it should be protected.”  Angharad Hopkinson, 24, was also arguing with protesters.  She said: “It’s not nice — they are dividing women.”

A Twitter user also posted: “Came to have a look at the Mary Wollstonecraft statue on the way to work, but it looks like someone’s putting clothes on her. I’ll try again on my way home!”

Wollstonecraft is known as one of the founding feminist philosophers and was the author of A Vindication Of The Rights Of Woman, which was published in 1792.

Hambling has staunchly defended her work, insisting it has been “misunderstood”.

Organisers said the work A Sculpture For Mary Wollstonecraft “personifies the spirit, rather than depicts the individual”.

AFP via Getty Images

She said of the piece: “My sculpture, I hope, celebrates the spirit of Mary Wollstonecraft. It certainly isn’t a historical likeness.

The British sculptor said those who have criticised it “are not reading the word, the important word, which is on the plinth quite clearly: ‘for’ Mary Wollstonecraft. It’s not ‘of’ Mary Wollstonecraft.”

“Clothes define people. As she’s Everywoman, I’m not defining her in any particular clothes,” she added.

“It’s not a conventional heroic or heroinic likeness of Mary Wollstonecraft. It’s a sculpture about now, in her spirit.”

Writer Malorie Blackman 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-assed.”

Writer Tracy King shared her disappointment on Twitter and said: “This is exactly what you get if you let lazy art values come before the politics the statue is meant to represent. It’s a shocking waste of an opportunity that can’t be undone.”

Feminist writer Caroline Criado-Perez agreed, describing the statue as a “colossal waste”.

She added: “I just have one more thing to say because i think it’s important: this feels disrespectful to Wollstonecraft herself and isn’t that the most important part?”

Channel 4 journalist Georgina Lee was also unimpressed with the statue, tweeting: “Because nothing says ‘honouring the mother of feminism’ like a sexy naked lady.”

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