Saturday, April 16, 2011

Monumental Women

Or, Today in Fascinating Coincidences -- Coincidences that, I am sure, are in no way political and certainly not related in any way to persisting gender inequities, which exist, after all, only in the minds of fat, ugly, man-hating feminazis:

WaPo has a story this weekend on efforts to call attention to how few public statues or memorials in our happy little post-feminist country commemorate vagina-equipped persons. According to the story,
Of the 5,193 public outdoor sculptures of individuals in the United States, only 394, or less than 8 percent, are of women, compared with 4,799 of men, according to the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Art Inventories Catalog, considered the most up-to-date catalogue of such works. And none of the 44 national memorials managed by the National Park Service (such as the Lincoln Memorial) specifically focuses on women and their accomplishments, writes art historian Erika Doss in her book “Memorial Mania.”
EVE (Equal Visibility Everywhere) is a new non-profit group that has been established to call attention to the disparity and its harmful possible consequences. Lynette Long, a psychologist and founder of EVE, tells the Post that the nonverbal message conveyed "by the dominance of male statuary trumps any verbal communication girls receive about being equal to boys. 'Humans tend to trust the nonverbal, and the statues send a very clear nonverbal message. Girls can’t be what they can’t see,' she says."

Meantime, over in the business section, the Post reports that sales of Barbie helped Mattel Inc.'s revenue rise by 8 percent during the first quarter, stronger than analysts expected in what is usually a slow quarter for the toy manufacturer after the busy holiday season. Global sales for Barbie were up 14 percent, the first time the Barbie brand has had double-digit sales growth in the first quarter since 1997, according to Reuters.

Which proves once again that girls made of vinyl are ever so much prettier and more appealing than women made of stone. I mean, really, darlings, we can't be cluttering up the nation's hallways and public squares with dour old broads like these, can we? If only those grim-faced gals who spent decades fighting for the right to vote had decked themselves out in some pretty pink ball gowns!

(Photo Credit: Bill O'Leary, Washington Post. Statue of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Susan B. Anthony in the Capitol Rotunda.)

We do hereby call upon the vagina-equipped historians (yes, you, and you, you, too, girlfriend) who read Roxie's World to weigh in on this vital question of public herstory. Should we jump on the bandwagon and demand that statues of long forgotten heroes be dragged out of public spaces in order to create room for women whose accomplishments deserve long overdue recognition? Or should we stay at home, playing quietly with our Barbies -- or, you know, fighting to improve conditions for living women rather than wasting valuable energy worrying about how to honor dead ones? In other words, does it matter that the hordes of young girls traipsing through Washington, DC right now on their springtime trips to the nation's capital will see so few images that resemble them in the hundreds of statues they will wander by in the course of their adventures? Or doesn't it? We have a healthy respect for the politics of visibility, but the truth is this issue isn't one that makes our blood pressure rise, tickled as we are that there's a cute little dog in the FDR Memorial downtown. How about you?

We eagerly await your replies. In the meantime, my typist heads to the stationary bike in the basement to continue the project of re-sculpting her own monumental body. Peace out, darlings, and have a happy weekend.


  1. VERY important post, Rox -- thank ye! Makes one realize just how astounding it is that the Austin airport very prominently features a statue of Barbara Jordan!

  2. I spend a lot of time in Central Park, where there are tons of statues. I never really thought about it before--that's what male privilege buys me--but yeah, there are almost no statues of women. The only one who is a historical figure seems to be of Sophie Irene Loeb.

  3. Roxie--thanks for bringing my attention to this. I think it's a very important issue. I will print this article up and use the stats whenever someone reassures me that everything's cool now in the practice of history. I love that weird sculpture in the Capitol of Mott, Stanton, and Anthony emerging from a chunk of marble, figures only half realized as sculptures. Women's Right's National Park has nothing like it--I don't recall any sculptures of human figures there.

    I do a similar analysis in my own mind of photographs and drawings in my daily newspaper every once in a while, trying to see what a non-literate or non-English reading person would guess about our society if a newspaper was their only primary source. Of course, the images of men far outweigh the women--women are usually only depicted as victims of crimes or natural disasters if they're in the news section at all, or as entertainers in the features section (frequently scantily clad.) Girl children appear in the local news section sometimes, but rarely as newsworthy people in & of themselves--usually in a mixed group.

    Men dominate both the news and the sports sections, but as you might guess, the representation of men of color is much greater in the sports section than in the news. In fact, Barack Obama alone has probably been the sole cause of the major uptick in the images of black men portrayed outside of the sports section. Men--unless their sportswear demands it (as in the case of swimmers or wrestlers)--are almost always portrayed fully clothed, whereas adult women are frequently portrayed in provocative or scanty clothing. So, images matter a lot, but we also have to consider their particular positioning and presentation as well as their putative sex, M or F.

  4. An old favorite of Roxie's World

  5. GlassPen2:25 PM EDT

    you mean that whole exhibition of First Lady ball gowns isn't doing it for you?

    did you know there is a National Women's History Museum (Goggle it)...trying to get a building in the vicinity of the Mall? maybe they'll have statues...or provide a permanent venue for The Dinner Party.

  6. Happy to see this here! There are sculptures of human figures at Women's Rights National Historical Park; men and women, they represent the people who attended the Convention. They're all inside the visitor's center. Oddly, the image I most often see associated with the Park is Stanton meeting Anthony... which isn't part of the park at all.

    The weird Stanton/Mott/Anthony sculpture is called "The Woman Movement" which is super-weird if you ask me. It's also unofficially been called "Three Ladies in a Bathtub" which is more descriptive, but still has that bathroom connotation... It's history is pretty interesting; it was refused by the government until the National Woman's Party forced Congress to take it. They promptly banished it to the cellar, where it stayed until 1995 (*). It's not even that there aren't commemorations of the accomplishments of women, but even when they exist they are hidden away.

    Hardly any of the Official American Memory (tm) is about women; and even when it is, it is often in the context of them being wives/mothers, giving birth to famous people or supporting their husbands on the home front (**)

    Yes... more official public histories of women!

    (*)Workman, C (2001) “The Woman Movement: Memorial to Womenʼs Rights Leaders and the Perceived Images of the Women's Movement.” In Myth, Memory, and the Making of the American Landscape, edited by Paul A Shackel. UPress of Fla.

    (**) Miller, P. (1992) Reclaiming the Past: Landmarks of Women's History. Indiana U. Press.

    Yeah... this has been a topic of some research lately...

  7. Eden's Innuendo8:47 PM EDT

    Interesting question, hi again, great ladies !! Feminism is sound asleep, there just aren't the die for the cause type feminists coming into things. Partly because we are not in the same type dungeons, not as oppressed for sure. The oppression is more buried under those supposed freedoms. One thing that strikes me though is the age of the women in the sculptures. Looking matronly and buxom, there might be some ageism as part of the response. Interesting the Helen Mirren movie on Eliizabeth II, in that regard, I was very moved by the depth and dignity Mirren established in the character. Maybe that's our next hurdle. Distinguished aging in women, not needing skinny bodies and face lifts for full respect.


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