The US has fewer than 400 statues of women—but that’s changingBreaking News
tags: statues, womens history
Advocacy groups and policy-makers across the whole US are redefining who deserves to be placed on the pedestal, and how. They’re putting up statues in historical locations, using technology to circumvent the imbalance, pushing for government statue quotas, and prioritizing representation in public art.
“What is the worth of women? How do we value women and girls today? How do we commemorate the contributions they’ve made in the past, and what sort of future legacy do we want to leave?” Luthra says.
Women have undeniably changed the course of history. In the US alone, they have led the civil rights movement and fought to abolish slavery; they have been great American novelists and held power to account as investigative journalists; they were among the first to flyacross the Atlantic Ocean, and pushed for new legislation to gain the right to vote.
But public art has largely let these accomplished women fall to the margins—women are rarely depicted at all. That’s especially true when it comes to statues, a form of art that is designed to be public and visible.
At a different time in history, the dominance of male statues might have made sense. Men got to exist in the public realm, while women were mostly relegated to the home. Women had artistic influence in household items (like quilts), but sculpture was a male-dominated art form, explains Mya B. Dosch, a professor of American art at California State University, Sacramento.
“Even thinking about the word ‘erect’, ‘to erect a statue.’ Heroic statues are very phallic; it’s a very masculine way to take up space,” she says. Throughout history, most statues honor heroes or victims. But until recently, Dosch explains, women weren’t deemed worthy of either those roles, or part of that public discourse.
One thing women could be, though? Metaphors. Most artistic representations of females depict fictional ideals, allegories, or mythic creatures, such as Liberty, Justice, Beauty, half naked nymphs, angels of water, and a 19th century author’s conceptualizations of trips to a wonderland. Many of these statues of feminine entities are overly sexualized and objectified.
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