Mary Wollstonecraft sculpture slammed as ‘naked silver Barbie doll’


A self-declared ‘radical lesbian activist’ covered up a sculpture celebrating ‘mother of feminism’ Mary Wollstonecraft after critics slammed its creator for reducing the icon to a ‘naked silver Barbie doll’. 

Arist Maggi Hambling’s design, which depicted a nude figure atop a 10ft ‘swirling mingle of female forms’, was unveiled in Newington Green, North London, to a mixed reception yesterday evening.

She drew criticism online as people asked why the figure atop the £143,000 statue had to be naked.

Dr Julia Long, a ‘radical lesbian feminist activist’ and ‘anti-porn’ advocate from the feminism campaign group Object!, was pictured climbing on the statue this morning and covering it with a black T-shirt with the message ‘Woman – Adult human female’. 

‘Woman – adult human female’ is a message used by some feminists to distinguish between women who are born female, and trans women.

It is often by members of the TERF movement of ‘trans-exclusionary radical feminists’ who do not consider transgender women to be women, and object to them being allowed in female-only spaces like changing rooms.

A naked statue raised in honour of 18th century feminist Mary Wollstonecraft was covered with a t-shirt by 'radical feminist,' Dr Julia Long, from the Object! movement on Wednesday morning

A naked statue raised in honour of 18th century feminist Mary Wollstonecraft was covered with a t-shirt by ‘radical feminist,’ Dr Julia Long, from the Object! movement on Wednesday morning

The t-shirt bore the message 'Woman - adult human female,' which is often linked to the anti-trans TERF movement of feminists

The t-shirt bore the message ‘Woman – adult human female,’ which is often linked to the anti-trans TERF movement of feminists

Who is Dr Julia Long – ‘radical feminist’ who covered Wollstonecraft statue with a t-shirt 

Dr Julia Long is a former Guardian columnist who has been described as a ‘radical lesbian feminist activist’.

In 2012 she published Anti-Porn: The Resurgence of Anti-Pornography Feminism, which is said to counter ‘the ongoing “pornification” of Western culture and society’. 

Dr Long was a sociology lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge and completed a PhD on feminist anti-pornography activism at London South Bank University.

She has previously clashed with transgender activists over the topic of modern LGBTQ+ rights.

In a 2016 interview she hit out at the Women and Equalities Committee’s findings that people should be free to self-identify and select their own gender

She claimed that ‘terms like male and female are becoming meaningless.’ 

Last year Dr Long filmed herself being escorted out of a talk on transgender issues in London. 

She has not written for The Guardian since 2012, when she defended an invitation she extended for men to leave the room during a screening of Lesbiana – A Parallel Revolution.

In an article written for Object! earlier this year, Dr Long criticised the transgender movement, referring to two trans women as ‘men,’ and saying the movement ‘introduced a dizzying and seemingly endless proliferation of patently absurd new terms and concepts’.

Object! says it ‘campaigns against the sexual objectification of women and the oppression of women as a sex class,’ while also claiming transgender ideology has a ‘dangerous impact,’ on woman and children.

The campaign group tweeted earlier: ‘An Adult Human Female was chilly this morning among the cool wokebro luvvies of Newington Green who urged us to love our bodies. Btw we do. We OBJECT to nudity and stereotypes in female statues. We LOVE Mary Woolstonecraft (sic).’ 

 In an article from May of this year, Dr Long has criticised terms used by the transgender movement such as ‘non-binary,’ and ‘gender identity’.

She said the movement had ‘introduced a dizzying and seemingly endless proliferation of patently absurd new terms and concepts’.

The t-shirt was from the statue shortly afterwards by a passer-by.

The piece was installed near a girls’ school Wollstonecraft set up, now run as Newington Green Primary School.’ 

MailOnline has approached Object! for a comment. 

Ms Hambling has defended her design, saying it was ‘for’ Wollstonecraft, not ‘of’ her.

She told The Evening Standard: ‘You can’t be naked enough can you?

‘The point is that she has to be naked because clothes define people. We all know that clothes are limiting and she is everywoman.

‘As far as I know, she’s more or less the shape we’d all like to be.’

Critics including Katherine Faulkner, who said on Twitter: ‘So incredibly upset by this sculpture of Mary Wollstonecraft.

‘Was so excited there was going to be a statue of this great woman on the green where my two daughters play.

‘Why has she been reduced to a naked silver barbie? It’s so depressing.’

Dr Julia Long covered the naked statue earlier today. Object! said it 'loves' Wollstonecraft

Dr Julia Long covered the naked statue earlier today. Object! said it ‘loves’ Wollstonecraft

And Kathleen Stock added: ‘We can’t read contemporary visual art except against weight of contemporary visual meanings.

‘Women’s bodies are now objectified on a rampant scale. So I think it’s a mistake to have feminist Wollstonecraft represented naked, no matter how naturalistically.’

Another Angry Woman wrote: ‘OK so the statue of mary wollstonecraft is up and… for some reason she is naked and absolutely tiny and doesn’t look anything like her?????

‘Like this is basically weird fetish art that could be of anyone…’ 

And Dr Laura Wood fumed: ‘How many of our important male writers are depicted naked in their statues? You never see Charles Dickens with his b***s out, do you?’  

‘Clothes define people – as she’s everywoman, I’m not defining her in any particular clothes,’ she said.

She said of her critics: ‘They are not reading the word, the important word, which is on the plinth, quite clearly “for” Mary Wollstonecraft, it’s not “of” Mary Wollstonecraft.’ 

Critics compared the £143,000 sculpture in Newington Green 'to a naked silver Barbie doll'

Critics compared the £143,000 sculpture in Newington Green ‘to a naked silver Barbie doll’

Moments after the shirt was placed over the statue this morning, another passer-by removed it

Moments after the shirt was placed over the statue this morning, another passer-by removed it

'Woman - Adult human female,' is considered transphobic and is a slogan often used by the TERF movement, who wish to distinguish between women who are born female, and those who are born male but identify as women

‘Woman – Adult human female,’ is considered transphobic and is a slogan often used by the TERF movement, who wish to distinguish between women who are born female, and those who are born male but identify as women

Mary Wollstonecraft wrote the groundbreaking 1792 treatise A Vindication of the Rights of Woman and helped set up a boarding school for girls, now Newington Green School

Mary Wollstonecraft wrote the groundbreaking 1792 treatise A Vindication of the Rights of Woman and helped set up a boarding school for girls, now Newington Green School

Wollstonecraft wrote the ground-breaking 1792 treatise A Vindication of the Rights of Woman as well as creating a boarding school for girls, now Newington Green School, aged 25, near the site of the new statue in north London.

She was a philosopher, writer and strongly advocated for women’s rights, arguing women only seemed inferior due to their lack of education and opportunities.

She died aged just 38 having given birth to Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, who wrote the gothic novel Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus.

Writer Bee Rowlatt, who led the Mary on the Green campaign said she expected the form to ‘start a conversation.’ 

Dozens of people have criticised the £143,000 sculpture - depicting a tiny silver female figure emerging naked from a 'swirling mingle of female forms'

Dozens of people have criticised the £143,000 sculpture – depicting a tiny silver female figure emerging naked from a ‘swirling mingle of female forms’

Artist Maggi Hambling has hit back at criticism aimed at the sculpture, saying they had confused Wollstonecraft with the figure in the work

Artist Maggi Hambling has hit back at criticism aimed at the sculpture, saying they had confused Wollstonecraft with the figure in the work

She added: ‘It will definitely promote comment and debate and that’s good, that’s what Mary did all her life.

‘To have finally a public work of art that celebrates human rights it is a very public statement at a time of increasing societal division.

‘People haven’t heard of Mary Wollstonecraft and when you discover more about her, that is actually quite astonishing.’

Artist Maggi, best known for a sculpture of Oscar Wilde unveiled near Trafalgar Square in 1998, said of her creation: ‘This sculpture encourages a visual conversation with the obstacles Wollstonecraft overcame, the ideals she strived for, and what she made happen.

‘A vital contemporary discourse for all that is still to be achieved.’

TV presenter Anita Rani, who supported the campaign, added: ‘She was someone who just never gave up, she always fought for others, she was a badass – and it cost her.’

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn previously called for a statue of her to be put up, calling her his ‘hero’.

Helen Pankhurst, great granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst from the Suffragette movement, added: ‘Congratulations to all who made it happen.’

It is believed that more than 90 per cent of the statues in London portray men.

Mary Wollstonecraft: The ‘mother of feminism’ and a pioneer of women’s rights and education

Mary Wollstonecraft is widely regarded as the 'mother of feminism'

Mary Wollstonecraft is widely regarded as the ‘mother of feminism’

Mary Wollstonecraft was born into a prosperous family in Spitalfields, London on 27 April, 1759.

But during her childhood her father, a drunk, squandered the family money. Along with her mother and siblings, she often suffered abuse at his hands.

As a woman, Wollstonecraft received little formal schooling but she set out to educate herself. 

In order to make a living, Wollstonecraft and her sisters joined family friend Frances Blood to set up a girls’ school together in Newington Green.

In 1788, she became a translator and an adviser to Joseph Johnson, a noted publisher of radical texts.

At age 33, Wollstonecraft wrote the ground-breaking treatise A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792).

The book set out her abhorrence of the notion that women are inferior and that they only exist to serve the domestic needs of a household.

Wollstonecraft's ground-breaking and most famous work was published in 1792

Wollstonecraft’s ground-breaking and most famous work was published in 1792

She proposed that this was only the case because women were given an inferior education and put forward the idea of reform.

Wollstonecraft called for men and women to be given the same access and opportunities for education – a notion that was truly revolutionary at the time and caused tremendous controversy. 

She mixed with the intellectual radicals of the day – debating with Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine and Joseph Priestley and went on to write Maria, or the Wrongs of Woman – a work which argues that women have strong sexual desires and that it is immoral to suggest otherwise.

Wollstonecraft died aged just 38 just days after giving birth to her second daughter Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, who went on to write the Gothic novel Frankenstein as well as Mathilda.

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