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Causegirl strikes again

Over the last couple of months I have taken to walking around the city, commuting on foot or bike instead of by bus. The weather has been great, after all. I like it. It's calming, which I need. I can read trashy fantasy novels as I walk along, or go out of my way just for the sake of a fun ride. I've also been blipping intermittently.

So I've been taking a lot more notice of pretty things in the city. Buildings, 'skylines', statues. Especially statues. Edinburgh has a ton of statues, and monuments, and plaques, and stuff. But I noticed not a whole lot of them were to/of women. There's "Mother & Child" on Lothian Road, which is lovely and everything, but was pretty much the only one I could name off the top of my head. But you've got statues of dudes all over the place. Particular dudes, who did stuff, not just archetypical dudes we want to celebrate because yay they're good at fathering or something. (Although I would totally support a "Father & Child" statue.) Also animals and random stuff like huge feet. More of those than women.

One of the things I adore about Edinburgh is how it has these tangled, multi-level, non-Euclidean streets and staircases. Edinburgh is a hyperbolic plane which intersects itself. And for all that I've been walking around more, I still haven't been changing my route much. So I figured I probably just hadn't noticed the lady-statues. They would be tucked into corners, popping out creepily at night, appearing at some street level you didn't realize could possibly be viewed from your position, in typical Edinburgh fashion. That was what I figured. That would be fine. Way better than not being there.

But last weekend I kind of started to doubt this, so I googled around a little bit and found this list. And there are some monuments to ladies I missed. But not many. Queen Victoria on Leith Walk (I'd totally forgotten about her), and two monuments that I hadn't known were dedicated to women. Also some lady-statues in the Gallery of Modern Art, but I'm only really counting stuff that I might pass on a walk. Or more importantly that, say, a 12 year old girl might pass on a walk. It's Wikipedia, and it says it's not a complete list, but even so there are way more dude-statues I didn't know about than lady-statues I didn't know about. There's at least ten times as many dudes on that list. And most stuff put up recently (last 20-30 years) has been dudes and animals.

Not cool.

I found this website, which is more encouraging. It was nice to see that I'm not the only one who thinks this isn't okay. And there is a lot more stuff listed on that website. But a lot of it is stuff like... this woman has a plaque on a building over here, this stained glass window depicts a female saint, this school is named after that lady, this little monument is to both Robert Burns and his wife. (Because with 3 monuments to him, hey, let's stick his wife's name on one, why not.) Which is good stuff, but not very visible unless you happen to go to that school or give birth in the Elsie Inglis ward.

I posted the list on facebook asking if there were any lady-statues that had been missed. I mostly just got Dave mansplaining about how people didn't know much about the achievements of women and it's not very easy to get a statue put up, and complaining when Sandy & I used the word "mansplain". (Someday there will be a messy intersection of Dave, myself, and a bread knife. I have held off thus far because he's one of Sandy's good friends.) But he did at least push me to DO something about it.

So, because I clearly don't have enough to do, I wrote a short letter pointing out the problem and asking what would be involved in getting something put up if I could do the fundraising. I emailed it to my MP Sheila Gilmore, the local council's Culture guy Richard Lewis, all 8 MSPs listed for Edinburgh East, and a generic "contact us about Monuments" box on the council website.

Thus far, the office of Neil Findlay MSP has gotten back to me saying that they try not to duplicate stuff, and thus Kezia Dugdale MSP specifically will get back to me on behalf of the rest. Sheila Gilmore's office has also gotten back to me and put me in touch with Councillor Andrew Burns, who is apparently the leader of the Council, and has responsibility for equalities issues. So a little bit of delegating so far, but response times have been good, which is neat. I'm hopeful.

Actually getting a statue of someone put up would be a pretty huge project, though. In fundraising alone... you're talking tens of thousands of pounds for a bronze statue, for instance. So I'm wondering what else could be done. Murals seem more achievable and more likely to actually get looked at rather than just blanked as someone walks past.

In the meantime I'm thinking about maybe walking around and blipping all the little monuments to women that are on that map.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
joexnz
Jul. 16th, 2013 12:57 pm (UTC)
Yup that list confirmed what I already knew
There was lots of statues put up in the 1800's
Not many put up from about 1930 until 1990
The mix post ww2 has been figurative and abstract
This list doesn't include a lot of abstract stuff, such as the pigeons at top of leith walk or the fountain in festival square. (I think I only checked the pigeons)

This tells me
The list is biased
Art went abstract at about the time the equality movement started, people in general aren't represented in art much
That since the council started with public art again they have been playing it safe in terms of representing historical (and this more likely to be male, revisionist history is still clawing back the place of the poor, the queer and women) or allegorical figures (women do better in allegorical works due to the construction of art as a professional discipline in the 1800's, Victoria is usually an allegory of British empire than an actual portrait)

So yes I agree, if public art is moving back to the figurative, non allegorical public commissions the council should be reminded of women, the queer and the poor as part of Edinburgh historic and modern

Also this list doesn't mention who the artist was, even less women on that list I'd bet
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )