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…

Image

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.

Stuck In Traffic: A Short Story

Content Warning: This story discusses human trafficking and pedophilia. Reader discretion is advised.

Photo by Tim Tebow Foundation on Unsplash

Post Street–
Chinese New Year Parade –
The traffic devours the patience of every San Francisco driver. A choir of horns blasts the pedestrians from the sidewalks as the barricades teeter in place.

An hour and a half after the cab ride began, fire crackers still echo off the buildings while drivers grapple for every opening in the sea of exhaust fumes, foot traffic, and non-motor vehicles. The Little Darling’s Peep Show’s lights blink in contrast to the gated and locked businesses wrapping themselves up against the cool Pacific air.

“I’ll get out here.” The suit commands, opening the door into screaming curses while his fare settles before the door slams shut. He smirks as he reaches the sidewalk – he found her.

She stands at the corner waiting; peahen struts in her heels, suit, and buttercream silk blouse. The man glances at a business card from his pocket, then returns it. He found Her.

Her face never fabricates a smile for him, but she leads him past the iron gate into what looks like an old hotel. She opens a door to an office with a black leather lounger where she motions for him to sit.

“Who gave you my card?” Her lips fall into a pout as she sits on the large oak desk, averting her eyes from his face; playing with her manicured nails.

“I’m looking for a young woman.” He states without answering. “Thin. No stretch marks. Underdeveloped. Small.” He smiles and leans back, crossing his hands over his stomach.

The woman nods, then picks up her phone from the desk, texting someone. A knock at the door reveals a tiny late-adolescent with deep umber hair and fawn skin of no more than five feet tall in heels and a shimmering club dress.

“She will do.” The man stands, then turning toward the desk pulls a wad of cash from a money clip. “Thank you.”

The door slams, leaving the woman alone in the room, vomiting into a trash can. A hidden door in the wall opens, revealing a man with a cloud of hair wafting from his scalp. “Not a fan of this one?”

“I hate his kind.” She snarls, wiping her mouth. “And I hate tiny women.”

The white haired man sprawls on the lounger and laughs. “Why? Men are attracted to small, delicate, vulnerable creatures. It’s instinctual.”

“They’re attracted to them because they’re pedophiles.” She spits.

“Then why hate the women?” The man sits up and cocks his head. “You’re jealous,” he mocks. Her eyebrows attempt to narrow in response; instead only her mouth frowns. “Men are allowed to like what they like. Besides, you’re just doing your job.” Standing, he walks over, wrapping his arms around her shoulders from behind, kissing her neck. “Try not to hate yourself because you’re not one of them anymore.”

Closing her eyes, she sees herself grab the letter opener from the pen cup and stab him in the neck. His eyes bulge out as red arterial blood pulses out onto the Persian rug adorning the floor, ruining her silk shirt he bought not long ago. He collapses onto the desk as she grabs his keys to the safe in the hidden room, grabbing enough of the cash to be free of him forever. Running down the old steps and out of the building into the chaos of San Francisco during Chinese New Year.

He cups her breasts from behind as she opens her eyes. “Where is the money he handed you?” He whispers in her ear.

She hands him the roll of hundreds over her shoulder, then stands, re-buttoning her blouse.

“Good work.” He oozes as she approaches the door.

The sounds in the hallway follow her; remind her; haunt her as she walks down the steps, wondering if now is the time to step outside.


If you found yourself moved, please consider liking, commenting, and/or sharing it with others. Truly, I am grateful for the time you spent reading my work. While you’re here, if you want to learn more about what you can do to help those impacted by human trafficking, or if you are impacted by human trafficking please check out http://humantraffickinghotline.org/.

If you are in need of immediate help and are located in the United States please call 1 (888) 373-7888 or text 233733 (Text “HELP” or “INFO”) 24/7/365

February 2020: “But I Am Here” by Pamela Bettencourt

This review is going to be a little bit different for a couple of reasons. First, I received this book from the author after receiving an email asking if I would read it and consider reviewing it on my website and in my LiveTweet format. Upon reviewing a summary and the website my answer was a resounding yes. This was my answer because the author is not alone. It was good to know that I’m not alone.

Summary (Caution – Mild Spoilers):

In her memoir “But I Am Here” Bettencourt uses prose poems and free verse poetry to tell the story of her abuse, how it impacted her life, still impacts her life, her attempts to get help, and when she had to make the choice to tell her husband and the world.

The book begins with reflection as an adult, then transports the reader into the mind of a child. In each section the reader lives through Bettencourt’s eyes as she tells these stories without ever using names. Each section concludes with a reflection on the experience from the adult perspective based new insight gained through healing.

Overall Reaction:

In this powerful, moving memoir I ache for the author and her experiences. I feel very passionate about protecting children and helping those that are survivors of sexual abuse. The author does not use complex language, nor does she need to. She hides information appropriately to ensure that the reader experiences each moment the way she experienced it. This amplifies the experience of the book.

I found I had to take several breaks due to the intensity of the material. The book does not hide its content warning. It’s on the front cover. There are resources in the back for those that read it and need help processing any emotions or past trauma that may come up while reading the book. All of this is extremely well thought out.

The amount of vulnerability involved in this writing and the amount of information shared by the author is incomparable to books like “Helping Her Get Free” or “Perfect Daughters” due to the accessibility of the information. Both of these books discuss forms of abuse experienced in childhood and how that shapes adult behaviors with heavy analysis. In contrast, Bettencourt brings the reader inside her own head. We are guided through her thoughts and experiences overtime to see how she got into each head space without going into the academic view point beyond helpful information any reader can understand. This makes the book accessible to a very broad audience.

I am sad that more was not mentioned about the experience of disclosure to loved ones. I believe that part of the purpose of the book was the disclosure. This is both painful and makes complete sense.

In terms of my own personal experiences and what the book brought up for me, I will be brief. For survivors of childhood sexual assault/abuse it is a hard read, but I felt a deep connection. The book takes great care in the reflections shared to connect with the reader’s experiences and own journey, whether these realizations be new or old. It does not try to explain the realizations – they can all be explained to the reader on their own journey by the resources in the back or through therapy.

“But I Am Here” is a painful, beautiful read. Reality is stranger than fiction and child sexual abusers are a great example.

LGBTQA+

I believe this book is absolutely relevant to anyone, including members of the LGBTQA+ community, who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse. There is no mention of LGBTQA+ individuals in the book, but this does not impact my opinion on this matter.

Grammar & Punctuation

There are a few spelling errors that can easily be corrected in future printings of the book. These errors do not interrupt the overall reading experience.

For More Information On Getting Help

You can visit online.rainn.org or call 1-800-856-4673 (US) – these are mentioned in the back of the book.

Additional organizations that provide information, work to assist in reporting, and help victims and survivors:
https://www.d2l.org/
https://www.nctsn.org/what-is-child-trauma/trauma-types/sexual-abuse
https://thercc.org/get-support/supporting-loved-one/supporting-child-sexually-assaulted/
https://www.dvrcv.org.au/help-advice/sexual-abuse-in-childhood

I would love to expand this list – please feel free to submit additional websites to lopotterwrites@gmail.com

Want To Read More About The Author?
You can visit the book’s website here. For each copy of the book sold through the publisher’s website the publisher will donate $1 to the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline. You can follow the author on Twitter here.