A new trend in public statuary is evolving. Call it plop art -- three-dimensional figures that appear abruptly on city streets as a form of social or political commentary. Examples have included “Fearless Girl” on Wall Street to raise consciousness about the absence of women in company boardrooms, and a naked Donald J. Trump in numerous U.S. cites as a declaration against his misogynistic ways. The latest sighting features busts of notable women in the streets of Sofia, the capitol city of Bulgaria as an outcry against the non-existence of monuments to women.

A silly argument

Incredibly, a complaint about the very idea of these busts comes from an art critic, Jonathan Jones of Britain’s daily The Guardian, who says, “feminism doesn’t need more female statues, it needs political action.” This is a silly argument for a couple of reasons. 1) How else should artists Protest an issue if not with their art-making? It’s what they do when they are moved. One may wonder if Jones would have picked on Goya for painting “The Third of May” or Picasso for “Guernica” and said anti-war thinking doesn’t need paintings, it needs action. 2) Telling artists that feminism needs more political action rather than art is like dismissing advocacy-writing as useless. Activism can take many forms – statuary and support for a cause in print, included.

Words matter

Jones should know better because his newspaper ran a story a few years back about how books have contributed to the feminist movement. The article cited women who credited writers for opening their eyes to female issues. The author of the story, Jessica Valenti, told of the effect that reading Naomi Wolf's “The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women” had on her when she was 13-years-old.

“It was such an incredible feeling to know that so many of my insecurities were manifestations of a culture hell-bent on keeping women in their place.” Such protest writing changed her, Valenti said: “Ultimately, I think, that is what every author hopes for.” (That’s the hope of every artist, too).

Art as activism

Another feminist in the Guardian story, Natasha Walter, spoke of being spurred on by reading Virginia Wolff’s “Three Guineas,” particularly by the line about being a woman who has no country and wants none because the whole world is her country.

Walter imagined those words to be the thinking of civil rights fighters like Alice Walker or Andrea Dworkin. Discovering they were the thoughts of a fiction writer who wasn’t taken seriously as a political activist surprised her. She believes that Wolff’s work shows “a fierce sense of injustice at women's lack of political voice...It’s almost painful to see how relevant her anger still is today.” If writing can be a form of political activism, why not statuary? Jonathan Jones, please copy.