There are 23 statues of historical figures in New York City’s Central Park, yet not a single one depicts a woman. I remember repeatedly taking my daughter’s picture at the Alice in Wonderland statue when she was little. She used to love to climb on it. I can’t help but note now, however, that she never wanted to climb on the big manly statues of men on horseback when we passed them on our walks.
Need some more stats? There are an estimated 5,193 public statues depicting historical figures in the United States. Only 394 of them are of women. This is less than 7% if people are taking note, which clearly we haven’t been. None of the 44 memorials maintained by the National Park Service are specifically focused on women.
All of this got me thinking. I surmise that not only should the Confederate statues be taken down, but perhaps all the ridiculous statues of men in uniforms on huge horses should go as well. You want statues? Let’s have them convey a message of something productive, not war. Our beloved Statue of Liberty — which if she weren’t given to us by France, I suspect would have been a “he” — presents the wonderful message of “Give me your tired, your poor.” Many early-20th-century immigrants gazed at her in awe as she conveyed to them that they were welcome here. The statue in front of the Boys Town headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska, depicts a boy carrying another boy on his shoulders. His message became the childcare agency’s motto: “He ain’t heavy, Father … he’s m’ brother.”
Look, I even have issues with the Washington Monument in D.C. Seriously — a large phallic symbol (ask any woman!), compared to the pensive Lincoln sitting in a chair, thinking about slavery? Which would you choose to illustrate to a foreigner who we as Americans are?
So, the long and short of it is that this statue thing is a male thing. It’s a “make me feel big and strong” thing that should be revamped, not just for reasons of racism, but also for reasons of celebrating war. Inspire me with a statue. Don’t puff up the patriarchal ego that so needs the stroking of big horses and shiny medals on puffed-up chests.