Why so few statues of women in the UK? And when women are immortalised in sculture, why are they so small? That’s the question posed by Germaine Greer in the Guardian today.
She doesn’t provide an answer (perhaps because it’s so obvious – male-dominated patriachal culture, duh?!).
There are lots of other problems with the country’s legacy of sculpture, of course – anyone taking a tour of London’s statues will notice a preponderance of men ‘famous’ for killings lots of people during battles related to the country’s bloody history of Empire.
Which is partly why I disagree strongly with Greer’s bemoaning the lack of gargantuan Thatchers dotting the land:
No effigies of Margaret Thatcher were made while she was in power. Neil Simmons’ undistinguished marble likeness was commissioned by a private patron in 1998, eight years after Thatcher left office; at 8ft tall it was called “huge”, when it is actually smaller than effigies of less distinguished male prime ministers. If it had been genuinely huge, Paul Kelleher might not have succeeded in knocking its head off a few months after it was unveiled at the Guildhall Gallery. In court, he defended his action as an artistic expression of his “right to interact with this broken world”. The bronze Thatcher by Antony Dufort that stands holding up a minatory finger in the lobby of the House of Commons is smaller and the head out of scale, so that the great lady appears dwarfed. Neither figure projects any sort of authority; Thatcher is presented as an elderly woman with jowls and a sharp nose. Her Spitting Image puppet is more impressive.
I get the point, of course, and certainly part of the reason for this is Thatcher is a woman. That said, I can’t exactly get behind calls for her to be immortalised on a grand scale – Sure, she was the only female prime minister, but she was also a lot of other things that make me reluctant to see her to be cast her in gigantic, stately stone!
Maybe it’d be good to see not only artistic representations of women, any women, but also some changes in who gets the sculpture treatment and why…
[Update] I was googling for a list of statues of women in London (didn’t find one), but I did find this BBC story from February, when it was reported that London was to get its first ever statue of a black woman. And it’s an anonymous African woman holding a baby.