Tag Archives: Feminist

Thoughts On Mary Wollstonecraft’s Statue

circa 1797  english feminist writer mary wollstonecraft godwin 1759   1797, author of 'a vindication of the rights of woman' and mother of mary wollstonecraft shelley  a drawing by a s merritt after the painting by opie  photo by hulton archivegetty images

Born in 1759, Mary Wollstonecraft was an early feminist and I learned of her first as the mother of Mary Shelley, the mother of Science Fiction. While she was born to what many would call an abusive family by modern standards, what she experienced as childhood was common for women at the time. By a combination of being lucky, her own craftiness, and wielding her unhappiness through rationality, she gained an audience upon publishing her works.

Make women rational creatures, and free citizens, and they will quickly become good wives; – that is, if men do not neglect the duties of husbands and fathers.

Mary Wollstonecraft

That was her reality. She had the benefit, by all accounts, of being pretty enough and educated enough. She worked as a translator when she realized that being a housewife would drive her, and those around her, insane. And this lended her the opportunity to write her book, “A Vindication Of The Rights Of Women.”

I do not wish women to have power over men but over themselves.

Mary Wollstonecraft (arguing something that women are still arguing hundreds of years later)

Her arguments can be summarized here:

  • Men and women should be provided equal education in a coeducational environment as they are expected to marry each other and should thus be educated equally as well.
  • Men/those with power in society should be the primary leaders of a feminist liberation movement.
  • Women must choose rationality over sensibility (sensibility being defined as whims and emotions). This has been used to argue that her opinion was that sex and romance were distractions for women. This has also been subject to numerous criticisms.
  • Further addressed in “A Vindication Of The Rights Of Men” she argues in favor of constitutional monarchy and republicanism based on its distribution of power and the negative impacts that charity has. This plays into views on the church.
  • Utilitarianism makes constant appearances in her views. This may explain part of the union between herself and her husband/fellow philosopher William Godwin.

As with all historic persons, we must consider her works in the context of her time period and life experiences. While she was considered radical for her time period, she was radical for arguing that women were capable of being creatures driven by rationality and sharing responsibilities with men as equals with independent interests in self direction. Sadly, she died 10 days after giving birth to her second child, Mary Godwin (Later, Shelley), in 1797. When I heard a memorial statue to her was going to be done by an artist I really like and everyone I know hates, things got exciting.

Don’t worry, I’m okay with people hating the art I like.

Maggi Hambling had no small feat ahead of her as she designed a statue to honor Mary Wollstonecraft. Her past works include A Conversation with Oscar Wilde , Scallop (for Benjamin Britten), and so many more. She has constructed art dedicated to some of the most eccentric and extreme of individuals made famous for how their existence and identities coincidentally fell into history. I have a few favorite pieces by her including War Coffin and her paintings of the North Sea. She’s a talented artist with a very unique style.

In my opinion as a fan of her work, Hambling designs her memorial pieces with the full context of an individual’s life in mind. She works hard to include the ugliness with the beauty and as I mentioned before, Mary Wollstonecraft was gifted with a rather lovely physical form. This meant that to communicate her concept of the woman emerging into a future society as a rational being from one ruled by the senses might be a difficult design challenge when there are other creatures with penises in the room. Additionally, Hambling’s statues are interactive. Each of her sculptures is designed with considerations to their orientation in their surroundings and how each person is going to sit, touch, lay on, and feel each sculpture to interact with the memory of the person she is representing.

At first, I didn’t know what to make of her statue. It reminded me of the 35th Anniversary Edition cover of Atlas Shrugged. [I’ve been encouraged to add that this deeply bothered me because I did not at any point think I would associate feminism and anything relating to Ayn Rand at the same time. But here we are.] Admittedly, this was the first picture I saw:

Image

Then I saw more of the sculpture…

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But here’s the full statue….

Mary Wollstonecraft

The “naked lady” portion is maybe 1/8 of the total height and is in no way provocative. Why was I reminded of the cover of Atlas Shrugged? Probably the borderline brutalist take on the architecture of the human form that strips it of sexuality and focuses instead on its utilitarianism; this feels post-modernist. Yet we’re talking about an 18th century rationalist woman asking for the right to individual agency and purpose derived from the self in a way that is equal to men of equivalent status. Hmm… This actually looks spot on for the writings of Mary Wollstonecraft and I can’t argue with it.

As for the amorphous blob she is standing upon? Now, that’s evocative. Stare at it long enough and you start to see human shapes emerging in sensual, borderline lewd positions. It is glorious and, depending on how creative you are, rude. The rational woman is standing atop an amorphous Akira style faceless nightmare of irrational sensuality, like a freaking epiphany waiting to be seen.

As with all of Hambling’s memorials the sculpture was constructed “for” the person based on their life and life’s works. I’m not saying I love it, but I have no qualms with the sculpture. It gets the job done and creates a thoughtful conversation piece that brings Mary Wollstonecraft’s work into the twenty-first century.


Do you love it? Do you hate it? Do you find it downright offensive? All of these are okay! Feel free to leave a comment below about what you think – that space is for you and I will work to get your comment approved as quickly as possible if you have not previously commented on the website.

November 2019: “The Moon Hunters” by Anya Pavelle

Plot Summary (Caution Spoilers!):
The year is 2065, and a scientific research vessel is currently tracking dolphins affected by an earthquake in the Pacific Ocean. Dr. Deanne Ambagu and her nurse, Tomas, are examining the belongings of two assumed refugees they found drifting in a rather unusual boat. While both are unconscious, the doctor tries to find clues to the identities and origins of the two individuals. She finds a journal, a religious text, and references to a bizarre calendar so different from her own. In the journal, she finds mention of a pandemic 50 years prior that killed off a large portion of the world’s population. While the world has recovered and moved on, the doctor has a horrific realization: these two people are refugees from somewhere cut off since the pandemic.

Yet, when the strange woman with red hair and tan skin awakens, she is alarmed, surrounded by foreign materials like plastic and cotton. She panics at first. Once calmed, she slowly begins to tell her story of an island with three cities founded by three siblings named Samsara, Chanson, and Rekin Ani. Each sibling founds a city on the island and populates it with the friends they can save from their old home in California. Assuming that the world as they knew it has ended, they set up trade agreements and try to create a way for the world to continue in quarantine.

So why did the two flee? How did they end up where they are? Why are they together? The doctor has so many questions for the young woman as she awakes and reveals her name, Leilani.

Leilani was raised in the city founded by Rekin Ani, her great grandfather. The child of aristocratic parents that died of drowning, her only actual female role model is her space-case grandmother, a former queen. Her twin brother, Irin, is the head of the house by religious and cultural standards. Additionally, since the passing of their parents, he holds a place as a prince of their village and works as a leader, having to fulfill the duties expected of him.

This society has expectations of women as well that are rigid and unforgiving. Her best friend is a servant within her household yearning to change in status and live a more comfortable life – something Leilani promises she will help make possible at any cost, a promise that will lead to her downfall. But she is lucky! Her family and status have blessed her with a job, comfort, and finery that brings her some semblance of joy. Enough so that she is complacent with her situation.

There would be no story if things didn’t change, and so her brother, with her best interests at heart, makes it so. She is surprised to find that she is to change jobs and instead become Elegance, a member of the Queen’s Virtues. The Virtues represent the traits of the Ethereal Queen, the subservient female counterpart of Lehom, the volcano god. While this is beneficial for rank and status, there is something suspicious – Elegance is a position once held by the queen’s sister, and these are positions held for life. Why would the queen dismiss her sister?

So when the former Elegance suddenly shows up dead, and the King begins proposing changes to the government’s structure, a metaphorical and literal earthquake begins to shake things up on this island, putting the lives and safety of everyone in danger. In this incredible work of fiction, Leilani battles cognitive dissonance, finding herself beyond her religion, and discovering a world outside her own.

My Overall Response:
“The Moon Hunters” by Anya Pavelle is the best book I’ve read this year. Pavelle brings together stories within stories, showing the reader contrasting views, multi-dimensional characters, betrayal, forgiveness, and the representation of a grandmother’s love to a degree I have never before seen represented so poignantly in literature.

This book required writing at least 3 or 4 different books that merged into one cohesive story. Readers, this takes time and effort. This is not an easy task. It means that an author plays around in the world to ensure that the reader can too. Between writing the religious texts referenced, the journal entries of various people, the histories, and developing the context for all of this information to be discovered and put together, I’m sure there’s enough information for more books to be written about this island and the other characters mentioned. I would love to read more books about the people of Ani Island, particularly Samsara and Chanson. I have a fairly keen sense that the author has all of that information ready without asking based on the level of detail provided to readers.

One of the beautiful things about how Pavelle structured the story is by contrasting the different cities founded by different siblings. There’s Samsara, the liberal, compassionate, free-thinker whose journal calls her brother, Rekin, out on his crap. There’s Chanson, the mediator, and “middle ground” where the other two siblings’ cities must meet. Then there’s Rekin, the former Hollywood party-kid turned cult leader that has forced men and women into his ideal images of both.

The multi-dimensional characters make the story realistic, and the example I will choose to focus on is Leilani’s brother, Irin. Irin initially comes across as a complete asshole to an American reader. Except, as the story continues, this view changes. We realize behind the scenes that the reader doesn’t get to see Irin at his actual depth and instead sees him falter out of artifice for the benefit of his family and position of power. By the end of the book, I was proud of Irin’s growth and change to genuine expression.

One of the themes of the book is betrayal and forgiveness. What constitutes betrayal, and what deserves forgiveness? When does one let things go? When has someone been punished enough? As a reader, we see this repetition with differing results specific to the antagonist’s circumstances and Leilani’s internal state. This thematic element blesses a reader with reactional emotions such that we escape no consequences.

This is the second book I have reviewed that has made me pause for tears (the first being Then Came Darkness). The particular scene that made me cry was when Leilani’s grandmother reveals to her that she wants Leilani to know she can leave her life and have something else if she wants. She wants Leilani to see that she can have happiness and gives her the gives to secure that happiness. My grandmother, named Lillian, did this for me.

I genuinely think this is the best book I’ve read this year and maybe one of the best humanist works I’ve ever read. I cannot recommend this book enough and hope that everyone reading this review purchases a copy.

LGBTQA Friendly?
100%. One of the contrasting foundational elements of this book between societies shows heteronormativity versus complete acceptance of a spectrum of relationships. I would absolutely recommend any LGBTQA reading list.

Grammar:
While I think the writing is otherwise impeccable, the author mentioned she found two errors in the printed version. As a result, I went back into my notes and decided to be nit-picky on the two mistakes I did find for this reason. I did see notes for:

  • page 231, where the word “had” is missing.
  • page 279, where the word “my” should be the word “I.”

To be clear – this book meets the 1: 10,000-word error editorial standard and the errors are not memorable.

Twilight Zone Moment:
The unanswered questions I have that I wish had been addressed more in the book are what are the stereotyped traits of the founding families, and how did the class structure of the Village of Lehom arise? Perhaps this is something that could better be addressed in prequels if Pavelle so chooses to indulge an eager fan.

Want to Know More About the Author?
To read more about Anya Pavelle, read more of their work, or contact them, you can visit their website or visit their Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. You can purchase the book here.

Chandra Press, LLC, published this book. For more information, you can visit their website at www.chandrapress.com.